The summer heat is agonizing and disappointing given the fact that it was raining not too long ago. Beskar doesn’t exactly do wonders in the weather but Din manages, he’s no stranger to grueling weather and refuses to let it inconvenience him. He’s walking a familiar trail that takes him past a field where the padawans are soaking in the afternoon sun. They shout their greetings and he kindly waves back in acknowledgement. Any other day he would sit and talk with them but right now he’s on a mission to find his son and his cyar'ika .
Its been a week since that fateful night, not a lot of time for change but it was different all the same. Luke was unlike anyone he’s ever been involved with. Which, okay, there’s actually been nobody before now and he’s painfully aware of it. He’s been courted and he’s even had a connection with people before but nothing this serious. Nothing real. He thinks back to the widow on Sorgan and wonders if things would have been different if he was ready to settle down then, how would his life look?
He banishes that thought as soon as it comes. As tempting as the offer had been, the circumstances are much different now. Before, he wasn’t truly Grogu’s father, he didn’t even know the kid had a name. Before, Grogu was being hunted, they needed to move to survive. But, most importantly, he did not love her. She was lovely, kind and respectful of him but he couldn’t return those feelings. Not how she wanted. Now, he’s raising his clan of two to the best of his ability. Now, Grogu is safe and hidden beneath the greenery of Yavin. And, most importantly, he loves Luke- he’s in love with Luke.
A sigh escapes his lips as he comes up on the Jedi in a grassy clearing. The blonde haired man is in a meditative pose but he’s chuckling at the tiny green bundle in his lap. He has a silly, toothy smile on his face and it just makes Din want to kiss it away. They haven’t done that again but the scene playing out in front of him is almost enough to change that. Yes, he’s definitely in love.
Grogu’s eyes meet his shielded ones over Luke’s shoulder, he squeals in excitement. Din doesn’t show quite that much enthusiasm but he’s excited to see the kid nonetheless. Luke cranes his head to see the man approaching and brightens up (if that’s even possible, he’s already blinding ).
“I didn’t even hear you coming,’ Luke comments, turning his head back to his lap.
“You didn’t sense me?” Din asks, only half teasing. As much as he loves to give half hearted jabs at the force, he’s always sensed by Luke when he’s approaching. Kind of unnerving when he thinks about it, so he doesn’t.
Luke shrugs, “I was in a very engaging conversation! Can’t keep my attention on multiple things at once, y’know.”
The armored man sits himself down next to the duo with a grunt. He’s not that old, is he? “I wouldn’t have guessed he’s good to talk with, he ignores everything I say.”
The Jedi giggles, “oh no, he’s awful. All he wants to talk about is frogs, food and his buir. I can barely get a word in!”
They both laugh. Din has never spoken to Grogu, he imagines he never will, but hearing about it is enough. Plus, if that’s all he talks about he must not be missing much. “His buir, huh?” Luke nods. “Anything interesting there?”
“Oh, just a little something about trying to fight an entire lair of Jawas and immediately losing. Not even his pride in you could make that a heroic story.”
Din snorts but doesn’t have a rebuttal for that. It wasn’t exactly his proudest moment… Their chuckles die down into a comfortable silence. With unpracticed ease, Din quietly tugs his glove off his right hand so he can offer it to Luke. That’s something that’s different now too, the hand holding. It might not be as impactful as a kiss but it’s just as intimate- at least for Din, but seeing as Luke has never once complained and often initiated it, it’s safe to assume he agrees.
They don’t get a lot of time to do this, to just sit together and watch the birds pass by, but that just makes it all the more special.
Luke is touchy in a way Din has never experienced. It started with hand holding but he does so much more with so little opportunity. He’d be impressed if the air wasn’t sucked out of his lungs every time it happened. Luke will often place his hand in the spaces between his armor, like his shoulder or his elbow, even his knee which makes him jerk every time.
That’s another thing Din is learning… he’s ticklish. Oh, the irony of it is not lost on him. The great Mandalorian who took on entire armies and won can’t handle it when his lover squeezes his thigh a bit too hard. Luke loves it, it’s a miracle he stopped laughing when it was discovered and often takes advantage of that little tick. Din supposes it’s good that this came to light after his “wild” past, the people he used to run with would never have let it go.
As these thoughts run through his head, he’s cooking. Interestingly enough, he’s a decent cook though his skills are rusty from their lack of use. He’s even surprised by what he can create, he doesn’t get a lot of chances to make even the most basic dish- well, that’s not true. He’s had plenty of time since he landed on Yavin and he’s always been more than welcome to. Regardless, he doesn’t go all out on dinner, only making a quick lunch for Grogu or a midnight snack for himself. So, why is he cooking now? Well, he’s got a reason now, that reason is Luke.
Luke is an amazing Jedi, the most powerful Din has seen but he has untraditional training. He’s the descendant of an ancient way of life that has long since died out and only bits and pieces survive in his new order. All that to say, Din has no idea how to woo him. There’s no guideline for dating Jedi but even if there was, it would be completely useless because Luke wouldn’t live by them anyway. Truth be told, they’re already breaking a lot of rules by being together. What with the Jedi and Mandalorians being ancient enemies and the Jedi forbidding emotional attachments, it’s safe to say they haven’t been paying attention to tradition.
The only reason he cares is because he’s nervous, terribly so. There’s a lot on the line if this doesn’t work out and that thought is scarier than any of his previous doubts.
Grogu’s relationship with him might suffer, he thinks tensely as he cuts into a firm vegetable. I couldn’t do that to him, there’s no more Jedi around for him to train with. He turns around and pours the chopped bits into an oiled pan. And then I’d have to leave, it’d be too uncomfortable if I stayed and then that’d make it all worse. First his master, then his dad leaves? He stirs with a wooden spoon. It has to work, it has to work for his sake and-
A splatter of hot oil hits his ungloved hand making him recoil in shock. How long have his gloves been off? He looks from his burned knuckle and back at the simmering vegetables. He sighs, he’s not being honest with himself again, is he?
It has to work… because I want it to work… Because I love him.
“Smells good in here,” a kind voice comments from behind Din. He turns around, still holding his hand out like an injured animal which, of course, Luke takes notice of. “What happened to your hand?”
He drops it, “nothing, just a little burn.”
The Jedi gives him a confused look, “you weren’t wearing your gloves?”
Well, that’s not a fair question, he just realized it himself. He shakes his head, “it’s fine.” That wasn’t even convincing to his own ears, his hands are chapped and cracked to all hell, there’s no way a burn is going to help that.
Luke doesn’t believe it either because what was once concern on his face is now just plain unimpressed. Wordlessly, he holds his hand out and waits. Din sighs and gives him his injured hand knowing that he’s not going to let it go. Though, his irritation is immediately gone when he feels Luke’s thumb rub his knuckles. The smaller man pulls out a drawer to the left of him and retrieves a small tub of cream, one Din is semi familiar with.
“I’ve never seen you cook before,” Luke comments as he screws the lid off (with the force of course, he’s still a show off).
“I only know a few recipes,” the armored man mumbles, his eyes trained on Luke as he spreads the cooling cream on his hand. “I was hoping you’d enjoy it.”
Luke pauses his movements, “me? You made it for me?”
Oh, the room feels like it just heated up. Fighting the urge to rub at his neck, Din nods. “I- I’m not really sure what’s particularly meaningful in your culture… Jedi aren’t supposed to have attachments and your childhood sounded relatively normal. I thought that making you dinner was a safe gesture.”
Luke’s eyes soften, definitely a less anxiety inducing look. There’s a lot of looks that get thrown Din’s way- some even being Din-exclusive like that unimpressed one- and this is one of his favorites. The way his face heats up ever so slightly, the way his eyes crinkle as a smile spreads, the way the tension in his body melts with a sigh.
He raises Din’s now cared for hand to his lips and presses a kiss there. “Thank you, Din, I love it.”
Luke pulls away and walks behind Din to take a look at the almost finished food, oblivious to the way his lover is trying to process what just happened. Shaking himself out of his trance, he turns around, “I think Grogu would’ve jumped to force-healing.” He says dryly, meaning it as a joke and hoping Luke understands that.
Of course he does. He laughs, “he definitely would have, good thing I got here first before he exhausted himself.”
Din huffs and nods his head. The kid is probably playing out in the field with his friends somewhere. Last he saw, he was playing with those sibling’s amphibian- salamander , they had corrected him one day- he just hopes they’re watching him. He wonders if Grogu ate yet…
“So, do Mandalorians?” Luke pipes up.
Din stares at him dumbly, “do Mandalorians what?”
“Have ‘mating rituals?’” He holds his index and middle fingers up to mimic quotation marks.
“They’re not-“ Din cuts himself off when Luke gives him an amused smirk. Of course he was joking. “I… yes. We have gestures.”
“Oh, what kind?”
The armored man inwardly cringes. To another Mandalorian, the gestures are normal and honorable but even they can agree it’s intense. “Sparring is… common.” He admits.
Thankfully, Luke seems unfazed by this knowledge and just nods along. “Why’s that?”
“It’s a way of establishing strength. Whoever initiates it intends to win in order to prove that they can protect their clan as well as themselves.” At least, that’s how it was described to him. He remembers watching one of those displays before he swore to the creed. He was accustomed to his life as a foundling then but he still found it rather intense.
“I see,” Luke muses, “have you ever done it? Or been asked to do it?”
Din shakes his head, “no. In the eyes of other Mandalorians, I was respectable but never desirable. I… I made questionable decisions, I wouldn’t have been a good partner then.”
He purposely doesn’t mention any courting attempts from others. The memory of the way some people tried to force themselves on him is something he doesn’t care to look back on. He’s a strong man, he carries himself well and handled their advances with dignity but he hated the way they undressed him with their eyes. He briefly wonders if respect towards him and his culture plays into why he fell in love with the Jedi in the first place.
“Oh, well do you want to?”
“Spar? I’m not a Mandalorian but if a show of strength is important, I can take you on!” His attitude flips like a switch, what was once a swave Jedi is back to being his passionate lover. His enthusiasm is almost childlike, it’s endearing and makes Din wonder what he must’ve been like when he was younger.
Din watches him with careful, shielded eyes and huffs. “I know you can,” he admits with a kind tone, “I don’t want to spar. You don’t need to prove yourself to me, I already know you’ll protect Grogu… and me.” He chews on his bottom lip for a second, “and I think the incident with the Darktroopers was enough to prove your skill.”
Luke flushes red from the praise, “oh alright. But, I would like to see the darksaber in action.”
Does he want to see me get my ass kicked? Din thought, but he didn’t share it. With a nod, he reaches into the cupboard above Luke’s head and rummages for three bowls- the third for Grogu, knowing he’ll probably be along soon and he never skips a meal.
“Shall we eat?” He hands a bowl to Luke who takes it with eager hands, he must’ve been hungry. After piling their portions into the bowls, they set off to a small table and eat in a comfortable silence.
It’s finally raining again so all outdoor activities have been banned until the ground is dry again. At first, Din thought that was a funny order but after seeing the amount of mud tracked into the temple, he understood and enforced it. Plus, it’s a nightmare getting Grogu in the bath.
The entire school, save for Luke who went for a run, are gathered in the common area trying to entertain each other. Din is sitting in a particularly comfortable chair and supervising the younglings. Well, he’s supposed to be supervising but it’s more like fondly watching them while also making sure they don’t get in trouble.
Luke commented on his particular fondness towards kids, something he avoided admitting by explaining it’s another Mandalorian thing- but that’s not entirely true. He’s always had a soft spot for children, the need to protect their innocent lives almost overwhelms him at times like this. Most of the galaxy is bad but not kids, they’re the odd light you can find in the darkness, born with good in their bones and when that’s snatched from them, Din’s heart breaks.
Grogu is playing with those two siblings- Kit and Silus as he’s recently been told- the sight makes Din smile. He’s had a soft spot for the kids ever since Luke mentioned their rough past, something about it hit too close to his heart. They’re sweet kids, after asking about the mudhorn signet, they’ve let their walls down around Din and talk to him a lot, something he’s more than happy to entertain. Though, that got a few nasty looks from Grogu, but seeing as he’s happily babbling away now, he must be over it.
A crack of lighting strikes surprisingly close to the temple causing a hush to fall over the room. A roar of thunder comes a second later, a few kids jump and scoot closer to their peers for comfort. In the wake of the shocking display comes Luke, ever one for the dramatic entrance. Din almost resists the urge to roll his eyes at his lover but does so anyway, it’s not like he can see anyway. Luke is dressed in very… not Jedi robes. He’s wearing a soaked, old tank top that looks like its been dipped in a swamp a handful of times, the same can be said for his pants but the original green-ish color was hideous to begin with. His hair is matted down with rain and sweat, almost entirely covering his eyes but he pays it no mind. To Din’s annoyance, he tracks in mud, the very thing they’re avoiding.
A few kids get up to greet their master with eager conversations the Jedi clearly can’t keep up with. After they’ve said their piece they go and sit back down, sensing that Luke has an announcement- that’s not really a Jedithing because Din can tell something is on Luke’s mind too. Another, though significantly less tense, silence takes over the room.
“Okay, guys,” he runs his metal hand through his hair, “we all know visiting week is coming up, right?” The kids nod their heads, Din does not. Visiting week? He wonders, I’ve never heard of a visiting week . Paying no mind to his confused lover, Luke continues. “We have to get started on preparations! I’ll have the droids handle most of the cleaning but I want everyone to clean their rooms, okay? Tomorrow we’ll start pulling in the beds.”
The mess of children get up- some begrudgingly, some excitedly- and head off to do as they’re told. Once they’ve filtered the room, Luke hops- literally hops- onto Din’s lap, he couldn’t hide the mischief in his eyes if he tried. Din grunts in surprise, actually more surprised at how much Luke doesn’t weigh, the man is like a feather… not a comfortable feather though. The drops of water clinging to Luke’s skin transfer onto the shiny beskar and it makes Din cringe a little, they’ll definitely leave less than desirable stains. That’s all forgotten when Luke presses his forehead to Din’s armored one.
“Hi,” the Jedi whispers in an amused tone, clearly proud of his actions.
“Cyar'ika,” he replies dryly, or he tries to. He could never call Luke his cyar’ika and not mean it. He shifts under the smaller man, trying to get in a comfortable position, Luke pays it no mind and doesn’t help. “So,” he finally gives up, “what’s this visiting week?”
Taking pity on him, Luke gets up and makes his way to the kitchen right across from the common area. “Oh, y’know, like a parent day kind of thing.”
Din gets up and follows him, “I thought they were foundlings?”
“Some of them are. I think out of the sixteen we have here, seven of them were abandoned and reached out through the force. The others either did the same or their parents hunted me down to teach them.” He puts a clay kettle full of water on the stove. Din reaches into a cabinet and hands him a jar of tea leaves. “Visiting week is an event me and my sister came up with. We only do it every three months, that way the school doesn’t get too much commotion and we can stay hidden. They also get republic escorts here, that’s not easy to arrange, y’know.”
Din nods his head in understanding. That’s pretty basic stuff, he’s even relieved to hear that the majority of the kids have parents that love and visit them. But… “So, why’d you let me live here if there’s a designated visiting week?”
The question catches Luke off guard, so much so that he spills boiling water on the counter, missing his cup entirely. Clearing his throat, his eyes drift to his left- the opposite of where Din is. “Um, because I have feelings for you…”
Letting that knowledge sink in, Din snorts, “really?”
Luke gives him an embarrassed nod but he’s smiling now, “well, that and Grogu would’ve killed me.”
Din lets out a chuckle, he wouldn’t put that past his son for a second. Motioning to the spilled water on the counter, he says, “come on, let’s get cleaning.”
Preparing for visiting week is much more troublesome than Din was expecting. When Luke was making a list of needed materials, he was pretty shocked to find out they needed more than a dozen beds and sleeping bags to accommodate the guests. Turns out Luke doesn’t just let the parents come, he let’s the family come. Moms, dads, siblings, aunts and uncles- everyone is welcome and if it wasn’t such a nice gesture, Din would strangle him.
He’s also learning that the temple is a lot bigger than he was led to believe. There’s a basement discreetly hidden under one of the youngling’s bed and several hidden closets that Din didn’t even bat an eye at. It makes sense though, he’s no stranger to having underground safe havens.
The basement is unnerving. The single lantern they brought down couldn’t light the entire room up, even two lanterns wouldn’t illuminate the place. Luckily, the sleeping arrangements are right by the entrance, they won’t have to go any further than they need to. Din almost asks why they don’t make the basement the permanent guest room but the cold chill that runs up his spine answers that well enough.
Luke walks ahead of Din and pulls up some unmarked boxes while Din gives the beds a thoughtful look trying to decide how they should start bringing them up. “If you help me grab this bed on the right, we can-“
“Actually,” Luke interrupts, walking over to Din with two boxes in his arms, “I think this will be good practice for the young ones. Some old lesson about how it isn’t the size of what you’re carrying but your determination, it’ll do them some good.”
Din blinks, “oh… then why did you need me to come with you?”
The smaller man gives him a sheepish look and shakes the boxes with emphasis. “Well…”
And that’s how Din found himself walking down to the nearest stream to wash the bedding. Well, it could be worse. It’s a nice, warm day with a cool breeze coming every now and then to keep the armored man from overheating. Curious animals watch from the bushes on the side of the trail, Din wonders if any of them are brave enough to try and meet him, but it’s unlikely.
Though, it’s not impossible, because a seemingly fearless frog hops out and stops right in front of him. He stops, not willing to give the poor creature a reason to be fearful. It watches him with round, meaningful eyes and he can’t help but think that it might be the same frog from a few weeks ago when he told Luke his name. He doesn’t get time to examine the frog further, those eyes suddenly go wide with fear and it scurries away. Immediately assuming the worst, Din throws the boxes of sheets to the floor and whips around to face whoever is there. He doesn’t see anyone immediately, but then-
He sighs, yeah, he should’ve seen that coming. Grogu gives him the proudest smile, he must’ve been doing this intentionally.
“Hi, bud,” the child breaks into a little run and Din catches him. He lets out an uncontrollable giggle as he’s lifted up into the air, it makes Din laugh a little as well, but he’s got questions. “Aren’t you supposed to be with Luke? He had a little exercise for you.”
The kid spits as if to say, well that’s boring, and for once, Din has to agree. Lifting beds? Sounds like Luke was feeling lazy, but he wouldn’t say that out loud. Those little green fingers start pawing at his helmet, something that’s becoming more frequent these days. Months ago he wouldn’t have even entertained the idea, but months ago he wouldn’t admit Grogu was his child, things have changed.
“I’ll take it off if you help carry these sheets,” he gestures to the forgotten fabrics on the dirt floor, “how’s that sound?”
As expected, Grogu is all for it. He’s become much stronger with the force now that he has proper training; he maintains his energy much better and knows when to stop before it becomes too much. It makes Din glow with pride, he’s very proud of him.
The sheets float off the ground and into a semi neat folding (he is a child after all), then he turns to his father expectantly. True to his word, Din uses his free hand to lift the beskar off his head in one fluid motion. He takes a deep breath, the weather is even nicer than he initially thought. Grogu lets out an excited squeal and leans up to nuzzle his head in the crook of Din’s neck.
He chuckles, “okay, pal, I should take you back to Luke for your lesson-“ a low whine came from the kid, “but, I think I could use a little help washing these. You up to the task?”
Grogu nods very seriously, like it’s the most important decision of his life. Amused, Din mimics his expression but lets out a little huff of laughter. He starts walking again and Grogu babbles to fill in the silence- not that Din’s complaining, he could listen to those incoherent noises all day if he could.
They eventually stop at a very gentle river, one Din could trust the child around and hopefully get a thorough wash in. It’s a very beautiful part of the forest, he’s glad he took off his helmet so he could experience it with naked eyes.
“Right over here, bud,” he points to a particularly flat stone where the sheets can rest. Grogu guides the bedding over with great care only to drop it mid air so it lands as an unorganized mess. He giggles, Din snorts, “okay, but you can’t do that when they’re clean.”
After being set on the ground, Grogu waddles over to the slow moving water and reaches to stick his hand in it. A familiar pang of anxiety hits Din but he chooses to ignore it, he’ll be fast enough to save the kid if anything happens.
Deeming it safe, he grabs the highest cloth on the pile and kneels down in the sand. The rocks poke and make his knees ache but it’s nothing a little readjustment can’t fix, he feels slightly embarrassed at the prospect of having aching joints. He lowers the sheets down and watches the water bleed through, taking the faded white to a wet gray in seconds. It kind of reminds him of how fast blood will infect anything it touches, staining it instantly without hope of ever really being rid of.
He pauses without realizing it, oh how his life has changed. That thought isn’t new, but the content warmness that follows it is. He could be doing that right now, killing someone and dragging them by their blood soaked collar for a hefty reward then turning it around and doing it all over again. The smell of death is still reminiscent in his nose, he’s always hated that smell.
The bedding is fully submerged, much like him in his own thoughts, when a splash of water hits his face. He instinctively tenses up, not used to feeling sunlight on his face, much less a splash of cold water. To the left of him, Grogu has a smug smile on his wrinkled face, satisfied with his antics. After a moment, Din chuckles and flicks a few drops off his finger tips straight into his son’s face. They go back and forth at that for a while before Grogu decides they have more important matters at hand. He waddles in front of his father and puts his clawed fingers on top of the cloth Din is holding and gently pushes down, indicating for them to keep washing. Din obliges, amused at the child’s insistence and kind of proud by his enthusiasm to do some chores. If only it was always like that…
When they finish with the first sheet, Din folds it, not trusting his son to not turn it into a sloppy pile again. They’ll have to hang them up on the clothesline Luke has set up outside the temple; Din wishes it was down here instead so he could get this done more efficiently. The next rounds of cleaning got done rather fast, they weren’t all that dirty to begin with- though he did stop to get Grogu out of the river when he spotted a particularly large fish.
When they’re ready to start walking back, Din slips his helmet back on his head despite the whines of protest. The weight of the beskar on his head is comforting, welcomed, but he’s happy to have taken it off for a while.
It takes the rest of that day and night for the sheets to fully dry. When they do, Din helps the kids place them on all the beds they successfully pulled up. As the younglings do their share in preparation, they chatter about the things they want to tell their parents or skills they want to show them. It’s surprising that Din never knew that most of these kids have parents given how much they have to say about them now. It sounds like they look forward to this all the months long and yet don’t lead on about it much at all. Still, it makes him happy to know that they have those connections to their family, the trauma of losing or having no family is one Din wouldn’t wish on anyone.
As a blanket gently glides over the mattress, he notices the ever-so-delicate shine of tears running down a child’s cheek. They’re standing in a corner and looking downward, seemingly trying to hide away but knowing they have to help clean the temple like everyone else. For the first time, Din realizes that while the majority of kids here have families, there’s still a sizable amount that don’t. He doesn’t need to wonder how they feel about that because this poor child is making it very clear.
He gets off his knees and walks their way, intending to comfort and ask what he can do to help, when a frantic padawan barges into the room.
“Master Skywalker is under attack!” The padawan, a boy no younger than fifteen, cries out. Their crazed eyes scan the room until they land on Din and charge over to him. “A beast came out of the woods and attacked us! The others and I escaped b-but when I looked back-“ he gasped for breath, “I saw it overtake him!”
For a moment, Din freezes. He never freezes but he’s used to much different circumstances. On one hand, his lover is under attack, potentially in mortal danger and dying as he thinks this through. On the other, he has an entire temple full of children looking to him for guidance, if the beast is powerful enough to overpower a Jedi, it’ll be coming after them next. He glances at the basement door peeking out from under the bed and his head finally snaps in full force.
He pushes the bed to the side and yanks the door open. “Listen closely! I want you guys to gather everyone and bring them here. Take your weapons but prioritize your classmates over all else. When everyone is hidden, close the door and don’t open until Luke or I come back.” He starts running out of the room but pauses. He taps the boy who came with the message on the shoulder, “please find Grogu. Tell him that these are my specific orders and don’t let him go looking for me.
The kid nods his head with scared determination and Din is off. He struggles through the maze that the temple is, he’s lived there long enough to be familiar but not to navigate it perfectly in an emergency. As he rounds a corner, he slams into one of the older padawans, knocking them over but maintaining his own composure. He still doesn’t stop, he shouts “get to the basement, now! ” And hopes they’ll listen.
He hardly notices the way the sun beats down on him when he bursts outside. He starts strategizing the fight in his head, wondering what’s a safe attack to run in with and what should be left as a last resort. The darksaber suddenly feels heavier on his belt than it ever has, he knows the basics when it comes to wielding the sword but fears his inexperience will muddle the power of it. But, for Luke, he’ll do anything.
Knowing that Luke was taking the kids for an afternoon meditation session, he headed to a particularly peaceful meadow. Or, a former peaceful meadow. What was once filled with soft grass has exposed patches of dirt littering the area, there was no mistaking that a fight happened here. Well, that and the unmoving body of a giant beast in the center of it. The beast in question brings rather distasteful memories to light, it has the body of a serpent but the fur and horns of a bantha. Huge lightsaber wounds run up and down its side, it appears to be dead. Next to the beast is the figure of a man dressed in all black laying on his back and breathing heavily.
“ Luke! ” Din cries out against his better judgement. He hesitates for just a moment, waiting for the beast to react to his words, but when nothing happens he makes a beeline to the Jedi. To his surprise, Luke has his eyes open but drooping with exhaustion, his mouth is open and frantically heaving air into his lungs only to cough them out. He’s got a huge gash across his torso and cheek, nothing too deep but enough to get him taken in to see their medical droid. His fingers are also bent at impossible angles, momentarily giving Din a heart attack before he realizes it’s his fake hand. He’s definitely alive, but he’s in terrible shape.
“Din,” Luke weakly greets. He gives him a smile that Din thinks is supposed to be reassuring but it just comes out as pained. He tries to sit up but the pain is too much, he falls back with a half scream, making Din tense and turn back to the beast. Luke shakes his head, “don’t worry about that creature… It’s dead… and even if it wasn’t, it’s deaf.”
Din turns back to him, “...It’s deaf?”
The Jedi gives him a full nod but stops when he realizes that hurt too. “It relied entirely on sight… b-but it had huge blind spots,” he clenches his eyes shut and Din wonders if he’s seeing spots. “It would’ve been easy to run away, that’s how the kids got away so easily.”
Din lets his words sink in and along with them a plethora of emotions. Unbridled outrage is what came out of his mouth in the end. “You mean you could’ve escaped!? Why didn’t you run back with the children? You could’ve gotten me! We could’ve taken it down together and avoided this!” He gestures to Luke’s bleeding figure.
Luke doesn’t react much to Din’s words, he wonders if it’s because of any head injuries, or if he’s putting on his Jedi persona. “There was no time,” he eventually mumbled, “he c-could’ve followed. Too risky.”
“You said the blind spot was huge.”
“Then why didn’t you come get me!? Now- Now you’re-“ now you’re injured, you could get even worse, get infected. You could’ve died… You can still die. But he didn’t say that out loud. He couldn’t, that would make it all too real and this outcome is bad enough as it is.
Luke’s good hand shoots out and grabs Din’s armored arm. That action alone looks pained, it almost makes him launch into another rant but Luke cuts him off. “Din… I had to protect the kids. I had to protect the temple, our home… I had to protect you.” He lets out a tired sigh, closing his eyes and relaxing his face. “This is the path I chose when I became a Jedi. My duty is to protect, I’ll do it until my dying breath… I’m sorry I worried you, but it’s what had to be done.”
Though he understood, none of this was necessarily comforting. Fear wormed its way into his bones at the thought of Luke going off to a mission and never returning. He’s never felt that before, trading lives has never been a problem for the man. His only priorities were his own life for so long, he’s never felt the raw fear of losing a lover before, it aches like nothing he’s ever felt before.
Shakily, he nods his head, too worried to keep fighting with Luke. He wordlessly slips his arms under the injured man and lifts him up bridal style. He carefully jogs back to the temple, making a plan in his head to get Luke medical attention as fast as possible then grab the kids from their hiding spot.
They don’t talk on the way there.
Its been a week since the fight on the field. The medical droid assured the anxious school that their master would be fine, he just needed rest for a few days. Luke himself assured them of the same thing but stayed in bed for the rest of that day. Din took it upon himself to continue their training (mostly meditation and self defense, he couldn’t possibly attempt to continue force training) while his lover was out. He reasons that he doesn’t want the children to fall behind or fall out of the routines but he secretly knows it’s also so he can avoid Luke. He’s long since forgiven the other man but can’t shake the anxiety that’s festered in his heart, not wanting to look him in the eyes just yet.
Tomorrow, the anticipated visiting week will start. The temple looked amazing, cleaner than Din has ever seen it, it looks like a proper Jedi school now. But he can’t admire their work, he’s too distracted by the hollow look on some of the younglings’ faces as the day draws nearer. He hadn’t thought much about the sobbing child he saw before Luke was attacked but he’s recalling it now. He wonders what they do during visiting week, if they hang out with their peer’s families or if they just suffer through the week.
He recalls his time as a foundling before he swore to the creed. He was taken in by a Mandalorian and his wife, also a mandalorian, whose names he never learned. By creed, he was his father but Din wouldn’t say they had that bond in spirit, he always saw the man as his savior then mentor. He was a good man, always kind and patient, never tried to overstep the father role as Din had just lost his. It seems in vain now though, he can’t remember his real father anymore.
Forcing his train of thought back on track, he remembers cookies. The man’s wife was an excellent cook, even more impressive when you think about how she wore her helmet the whole time, never tasting what she was making along the way. The man himself was a baker, always complimenting their delicious dinner with a delectable dessert. But it sticks out in his mind because one night after a particularly horrific nightmare, his mentor pulled out the jar on the top shelf with the “special cookies,” the one Din was only allowed to have after their Sunday dinners. He passed four cookies his way and instructed him to “eat up, these will chase the nightmares away.” Now, Din knows he was just trying to make him feel better, but then he believed him wholeheartedly and ate them up. He didn’t have any more nightmares after that.
He glances at the vacant kitchen from his spot in the common area. He knows Luke keeps a cookbook in one of the cabinets. They should have enough ingredients, they get a weekly shipment of food from the planet’s natives. They’re kind people who were more than happy to help rebuild the Jedi legacy, he knew Luke felt guilty about it so he always bought their services and treated them with the utmost respect. Back to his plan, he thinks that, at the very least, all children like sweets, so it’s worth a shot.
After a few minutes, he finds himself surrounded by a plethora of ingredients and facing a dusty old book. He had his doubts but he ultimately decided that the recipes listed would be more than okay. It was a simple cookie recipe, just like the blue ones Grogu ate in the school on Nevarro except green this time. Grabbing a measuring cup and a sack of green-tinted flour, he started filling a clay mixing bowl.
“I didn’t strike you as a baker,” a voice calls from the hallway. A shot of surprise runs up his spine but he relaxes when Luke walks out. He looks better, no longer hunched over from the gash on his stomach and his mechanical hand back in its proper position. Anxiety stabs at his nerves now, he wishes he hadn’t been trying to avoid his lover, he wasn’t even there to help him walk around now.
“It’s for the kids,” he explains calmly, “some of them- the orphans, they’re upset about the visiting week. I wanted to do something for them.”
Luke’s gaze softens and a small smile finds its way on his face. “You’re so thoughtful,” he whispers in a sweet voice, “it’s no wonder Grogu loves you so much,” he pauses, mulling over his next words, “why I love you so much.”
Din’s hand stutters as he’s reaching for the next ingredient. A bit of his stress melts away with just a few simple words, it’s no wonder he loves Luke. “I love you too… more than you know.”
Taking that as his cue, Luke walks over and puts his hand on Din’s neck, pulling him in for a kiss. “I’m sorry I worried you,” he whispers into the beskar, making the visor fog up.
“It’s okay,” Din whispers, unable to raise his voice any higher. “I… I understand. Thank you for protecting us.”
The Jedi presses a kiss, a real kiss, on his helmet before he pulls away. The loving glint in his eyes is back, it takes another pound of stress off Din’s shoulders. “So, what’re we making?”
“... Didn’t you grow up on Tatooine?”
He doesn’t respond, opting to give his lover a look he hopes he can decipher through the helmet.
“Okay, point taken… But I can follow your lead, how hard can it be?”
Turns out, not hard at all! But tedious when you have a childish wizard flicking flour at you every few minutes. Sure, he got the milk when Din needed it but still felt the need to press the cold glass bottle against his bare hand, relishing in the yelp he let out. Still, he couldn’t find himself to be irritated with him. It’s all so domestic, he can only remember seeing such pure love in his foster father and mother. A part of him wishes he could tell his younger self that yes, he’ll get to live that one day too.
When the cut up dough is put in the oven, Luke rests his head on Din’s shoulder plate. He wonders if Luke actually finds that comfortable but on the off chance that asking him will make him move, he doesn’t ask. Feeling bold, he slips his ungloved hand in Luke’s real one, finding comfort in the heat of it.
“I want to do more for the orphans,” he says, “just for the week. Not training, just get out of the temple and explore for a while. Maybe go see the local village, they don’t get to go there often.”
Luke nods his head, “I like that idea,” he sighs, “I’ve wanted to do something like that for them ever since I started this, but it’s only me here. I give them the week off but I don’t think it helps much.”
Din squeezes his hand, “I’ll take them out.”
Luke presses a kiss against his armor. They watch the cookies rise. They don’t say anything else.
Din gave the orphans their cookies the next morning. They gathered in the kitchen, some looking miserable and others looking bored, but they all lit up at the sight of their treats. And, if it was possible, they got even more excited when he told them about the promised outings with him. That got him a few hugs, all of which he was happy to reciprocate until Grogu started grunting with jealousy. That was one of the things he was looking forward to the most, having extra time with Grogu.
But, what was supposed to be an easy going morning was sort of soured by some… shocking news.
“Din?” Luke called out to him, placing hot cookies on a rack so as to not leave marks on their counter. “I was hoping you’d be comfortable sleeping in my room for the week.”
Din almost dropped the mixing bowl he was cleaning. Of course he’s thought about sharing quarters with Luke, but that stuff is reserved for married couples and he was trying not to have a heart attack here. Pushing that mess of thoughts away, he replies, “what for?” He himself set up the rooms, making sure each family would fit within the children’s rooms, there’s no way they need to take out more space.
“My sister’s family,” he explains like he didn’t just drop a massive bomb on Din, “they’re coming in tomorrow as well.”
For a few moments, Din gaped like a fish, completely unsure what to say. He’s heard a lot about his sister and her family, Luke tells him just about everything. But hearing and meeting are two different things. He honestly thought Luke and Leia set up the program, not that she participated in it. But, now that thought feels silly, of course Luke wants to see his family and this is the perfect time for it. He just wishes he had some warning.
“All of them?”
Luke nods, “they never miss a single visit… and judging by the tone of your voice, you weren’t expecting this, were you?”
Din sighs, “not particularly.”
“You don’t have to be anxious, Leia will love you, I know it.”
“... Have you told them about me? Or us?”
The way Luke scratches at the back of his head doesn’t necessarily calm his nerves. “Oh, well… not exactly. She knows I got Grogu a few months ago but she’s been on a lot of important missions lately. We haven’t talked since last week and that was just a message she left to tell me she’ll make it this week.”
Din’s shoulders fall ever so slightly, talk about a surprise. He can see the surprised looks on their face already. He’s used to surprised stares or uneasy frowns when he’s around, Mandalorians are few and far between nowadays, but he had hoped for a much different “meeting the family” scenario.
“Anything else I should know?”
“They’re bringing the Wookiee?”
He’d gotten word that the ships were spotted and set to land in a matter of minutes. It’s ironic how much work he put into making sure the temple was ready for this because now he desperately wishes he had a last minute chore to distract himself with. Maybe the ceiling needs cleaning? Okay, that was stupid , he sighs. It’s not like he’s afraid of them, he really isn’t, but he’s never had to meet someone’s family before.
There’s the familiar sound of thrusters coming to a stop followed by the children’s joyous cheers. Boy, that window looks awfully easy to crawl through… but another plan is ruined by the cooing coming from behind him. Grogu looks up at him with excited, bug eyes that may or may not be a way of convincing his dad to go outside. It’ll work, Din would bend and break for his son any given chance, but it’d be nice if he didn’t use that to his advantage today. Suppressing a groan, he walks over and picks the toddler up, it was going to be a long day.
As he walks through the temple, he tries to think of things that bring him comfort. Grogu is a given but seeing as he’s not exactly on Din’s side today, he doesn’t bring much reassurance. Funnily enough, it seems that Luke is bringing him the faintest sense of peace he needs. Shouldn’t he though? As cheesy as it sounds, Din wants this thing to last with Luke as long as the universe will allow it. The scare they had with the beast was enough to open his eyes to how much he wants to hold onto the man- onto his love for the man as well.
At least once a day, his mind wanders and lands in the same spot every time. Luke is everything ; he’s the heart of the school, the sole legacy of the Jedi, the hero of the rebellion- hell, the hero of the galaxy. He’s the best pilot anyone has ever seen, the brightest man in the whole universe and the keeper of Din’s heart. He loves him. With a heavy sigh, he shoves his anxieties to the side and adjusts his posture. He’ll do this for him, he’d do anything for Luke.
It’s a bright day but that’s partially to blame on the transport ships. They’re made of a clean, silver metal, no doubt the work of the New Republic. Din pauses to think about the Razor Crest; it was once beautiful like that, no dents or scrapes, a clean canvas for adventure. Damn, he misses that ship. He does a double take at the ship next to it though, a stark contrast to the latter. Luke explained that the Republic provided transportation for the sake of security reasons but this second ship was anything but a Republic ship, pre-Empire even. And… it’s ugly. He’s slightly irked by how many nasty comments got thrown at the Razor Crest when ships like this exist.
But he shoos that thought away when he spots a Wookiee in the pilot seat. Of course, this must be Luke’s family. The Millennium Falcon, if he’s not wrong. Apparently there’s been many adventures in this ship, ones he doesn’t like thinking about Luke partaking in but they happened nonetheless. Maybe its value lies on the… inside.
Din pauses before he steps forward to find Luke. The usually empty clearing is filled with people now, huge families to a single person greeting their children, crying and laughing alike. It tugs on his heart a little, he couldn’t imagine parting from Grogu ever again, much less for as long as these people do it. He tightens his hold on his son and starts walking.
The sympathy he mustered is almost gone in a second when all eyes seem to land on him. Though the kids keep chatting away, most parents have fallen silent and are either cautiously watching his every move or glaring daggers into the back of his head. It’s funny, he feels so safe and content here but a handful of people can strip that away like it was never there. He wonders if the child in his arms will ease their worries but that seems to be in vain, the tension doesn’t let up.
It’s not ideal but it’s familiar at the same time. He doesn’t notice the way he stands up a little straighter and keeps his eyes looking forward, as if they’re not there. It’s just like taking a job and those times made him feel powerful. A sense of satisfaction creeps into his mind as it always has, he wants them to fear him, the job gets finished quicker that way.
A familiar metal hand slips into his own gloved one, snapping him out of his mind. Right, he’s not taking a job right now. His shoulders drop a bit, its been a long time since he’s had to be “The Mandalorian,” he’s surprised he fell back into the role so easily. But, then again, how can one unlearn years of behavior in a few months?
Luke smiles at him, that beautiful smile and Din pushes his own thoughts aside.
“Ready?” The blonde asks him, barely able to contain his excitement.
“As I’ll ever be,” Din replies, hoping Luke can’t tell he’s lying.
If he can, he doesn’t show it. He guides the pair to where the Falcon has landed, nobody has left yet but the railing is down. Curiosity picks at Din, so he looks in the open space of the ship and determines it’s very, very old. The railing alone is dingy and the wall that he can see has tiles peeling off, probably held together by spit and dreams at that point. It’s not like the Razor Crest was in her prime when she was blown up, but it wasn’t anything like what he sees before him now.
“It’s hideous, isn’t it?” Luke whispers, catching Din off his guard entirely. He hesitates before responding, not wanting to offend anyone but Luke fills in that silence too. “Don’t worry, I thought so too. Han swears she’s seen better days but I don’t think any of us were alive for that.”
That gets a chuckle out of the armored man. Han, that’s Leia’s husband if he’s not wrong. Something about his name is familiar, Luke mentioned that he used to be a smuggler so Din imagines that’s where he recognizes it from. To be honest, he doesn’t keep an ear out for other bounty hunters or smugglers or anyone else, not unless they’re particularly dangerous or after the same target as him. He wishes he had now, maybe he’d have a good idea of who this Han guy is if he had.
Then a man finally walks out onto the squeaky platform and it all clicks. Right, he had a sizable bounty on his head years ago. Din had been offered a chance at the job but denied it, it was a horrible idea to get involved with the empire at that time- actually, at any given time but especially then. Maybe his lack of attention is actually a good thing…
Han is followed by the Wookiee- Chewbacca, he remembers- and a woman, no doubt Leia. Her hand is behind her back and her footsteps are sort of shuffled like someone is holding her awfully tight. She pauses and says something behind her back. After a moment, an anxious little boy comes out with an unsure look on his face. That must be Ben, her son. When Luke was telling him about Ben, he asked why the child wasn’t training with him, and he found out the boy doesn’t have a force-sensitive bone in his body. Ironic considering his family has a legacy of strong force users but perhaps Han’s insistence transcends beyond his “charm.”
They seem to be talking amongst themselves, nothing Din can hear, but falter when they see the armored man. The armored man holding a toddler in his arms and Luke’s hand at the same time. Well, to be fair, it isn’t a sight you see every day. Luke just squeezes his hand tighter and Din has half a mind to wonder if maybe Luke is worried about his family’s reactions too.
After a few moments of painfully obvious gawking, Leia nudges Han with her elbow as if to say, “well, c’mon!” Even if Din knew nothing about the family prior to today, he would easily recognize Leia as their leader of sorts- or at least Han’s. When their boots finally hit the dirt, Luke shoots forward, pulling his sister into a suffocating hug. She doesn’t seem to mind though, she gives him one just as bone crushing.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” Luke gushes. With how affectionate he’s being, it’s a wonder how he ever parts from them.
“We wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Leia replies, her voice significantly softer but that same unbridled joy simmers underneath it.
Han comes up from behind Luke and ruffles his hair in a way that’s so friendly , like it holds years of bonding behind it. Luke leans into it too but there’s no shock there, he’s a sucker for touch even if he won’t admit it. “We missed you, kid! Gets boring when the only ‘adventure’ is some prime minister coming for dinner.”
Luke snorts, “it’s only boring because you’re banned from those dinners.”
Chewie is next and in a single second he puts Luke’s touchy nature to shame. He picks the Jedi up with ease, petting his hair and growling out something Din partially understands. Luke replies to all this with handsome chuckles and another bear hug, almost bigger than the Wookiee’s. When he’s lowered back down to the ground, he’s greeted by the excited but shy face of his nephew.
“Hi, Ben,” Luke greets warmly, holding his arms out for yet another embrace.
Like a switch, the reluctant child hops straight onto the Jedi, squealing out an, “Uncle Luke!”
They talk for a few more minutes. Din lets himself relax a little as the attention is shifted from him. So far, everything his lover described about the unusual family has been completely accurate. Though, he can’t help but think that the family isn’t all that unusual, he’s definitely seen stranger in his time. His own clan of two isn’t traditional by any means. Maybe that should be reassuring, that no family is the same, but he doesn’t get to ponder it because all five pairs of eyes are on him again.
“Who’s your friend, kid?” Han prompts. Din shifts his eyes to Luke who’s biting his lip with a faint blush on his cheeks. So he is nervous.
The blonde clears his throat and takes a step back to meet his lover. He half expects him to put on his “Jedi” face and carry the conversation with ease as he always does under pressure. It’s a little shocking when he doesn’t- or can’t. To be fair, how do you start acting like that around people who’ve known you for years?
“Right,” Luke eventually squeaked out, “guys, this is-“ he pauses and Din freezes. They didn’t discuss how Luke would introduce him. It took months for him to offer his name to Luke and though he can’t get enough of the way it sounds on his lover’s lips, he’s not keen on handing it out. “Mando,” the Jedi eventually finishes. “He’s my partner.”
The uncomfortable pause did not go unnoticed and, thanks to that, the tension does not let up.
“Bah!” A terribly bored Grogu cries out, feeling forgotten in his father’s arms. Of course, all eyes go to him (which was definitely his intention). Much to Din and Luke’s relief, Leia and Chewie’s eyes go soft at the sight of the toddler and fond smiles spread across their faces.
“And this is Grogu,” Luke gestures to him, “he’s Mando’s son.”
“Oh!” Han pipes up, “you’re a parent! I thought Luke hired some muscle of sorts.” The elbow the man gets to the ribs makes Din once again thankful for his helmet, he couldn’t stop his smirk if he tried.
Leia shakes her head in an exasperated manner and takes a step forward, extending her hand. “Nice to meet you, Mando, I’m Leia. The bonehead over there is my husband, Han. The walking carpet is Chewie and that little angel is my son, Ben.”
Din takes her hand, ignoring the protesting grunts coming from behind her. “It’s a pleasure. Luke has told me a lot about you.”
The sharp-eyed woman throws a piercing look towards her brother. “Unfortunately,” her tone is menacing, how Luke isn’t on the floor begging for forgiveness is beyond him, “I can’t say the same for you.”
The Jedi scratches at the back of his neck with his right hand, “I’m telling you now, aren’t I?”
That gets eye rolls all around but it seems to all be in fondness.
“Right. Well, we should start unloading. Go say hi to the other parents, we’ll see you in the afternoon.” And just like that, they turn around and head back onto the ship.
Din let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Well, that definitely could’ve gone worse, they didn’t seem to hate him. They seemed mostly sour at Luke but in a good way, in that family way that he’s observed so many times. The way he feels about Grogu.
Luke let his shoulders slump and a loud sigh, “I should’ve told them before now.”
Din hums in agreement, “yes, you should have.”
The shorter man snorts, “no need to agree.” He brings their hands together and squeezes, “well, they have time to warm up to you. I certainly did.”
Now it’s Din’s turn to snort, “not like that I hope.”
“Hey! You’re all mine,” another possessive squeeze, Din briefly wonders if Luke is the jealous type. “I have to go greet the other parents, you want to come?”
Normally, Din would say yes. He likes being by Luke’s side and it’s very kind for him to offer like that, establishing him as not only a part of the school now but his lover. But, he can’t get the cruel, uneasy glares out of his head, something he’d rather not go through again.
“You go,” he eventually says, “me and Grogu will go get set up in your room. Will we meet for dinner?”
Luke’s face drops ever so slightly, something so subtle only Din could notice it. He feels bad but it’s for the best, he knows it is. “Of course! I’ll see you at dinner.”
And with that, he’s off. The first family he happens upon is kind looking, engaging Luke in conversation and happy to hear everything he has to say. Din wonders if they would’ve been the same way had he accepted Luke’s offer. Then a pair of unfamiliar eyes meets his visor and he decides to turn away, not wanting to make anything worse.
Well, it’s true he has to set up.
Dinner is a quiet affair for the most part. The children can be rowdy but they’re all familiar with each other, no need to yell over one another. This is the exact opposite of that. The common area, small enough as it is, is overflowing with people and the noise is enough to make even Grogu wince. Surprisingly, the volume doesn’t go down at all when he walks in, a few more stares might be thrown his way but the conversations continue. As insane as the noise may be, that might be the most comforting thing to happen all day.
Luke is already there, sitting with his family and chatting away. Din expected them to be there but now that he’s faced with them once again, he can’t help the tenseness that takes over his body. He considers turning around and making up some excuse like he fell asleep or heard a noise outside to investigate, but those blue eyes find him faster than he can think. That beautiful, fond smile covers his face and he beckons the armored man over. And, well, how can Din say no to that. Plus, Grogu is starting to wiggle in his grasp to get to his teacher anyway, he has no choice.
He settles in the chair next to Luke, thankfully empty because sitting next to the Wookiee would’ve been horrible. He knows this spot well, he sits here every day to eat his meals and never has it felt so different. He forces that feeling away, he still has his cyar'ika here.
“So, Mando,” Han suddenly calls out over the noise. It catches him by surprise, he tuned out their chatter and didn't think the conversation between family could turn to him. Clearly, he was wrong. “how’d you end up here anyway?”
Din shifts in his seat, “I was searching for a Jedi to train Grogu, I found Luke.”
The smuggler pauses, mulling something over in his head before blurting, “do you look like him?” It earns him an elbow to the ribs.
Despite his reservations about the evening, Din smiles at that. He might end up liking Leia the most.
“No, I don’t,” he admits, “I’m human. He’s a foundling, I’m his father through my creed.”
That gets curious glances from all around. “Well, how’d you find him then?” Han asks again.
Oh, fuck. He didn’t prepare for that. Something in his mind screams don’t tell them that! Because, well, that’s quite a story to tell Luke’s family isn’t it? He didn’t even like admitting to Luke how he came to find his son.
Good thing he’s an easy liar. “I found him on a backwater planet a while ago. He was being hunted by a bounty droid and I saved him. We went off to find Luke soon after.”
The answer doesn’t seem to satisfy the smuggler who’s still giving him a funny, confused look. “Were you a bounty hunter?”
Hesitantly, Din nods, “yes.”
“Wait, so why are you living here with Luke?”
Din’s head felt like it was going to burst, every question Han asks catches him off guard, unable to predict what he wants to know next.
“Luke offered. In the end, I stayed because I love him and my son.”
Luke gives him that warm smile again, possibly brighter than before. Not for the first time, Din thanks whatever power is out there that he chose to stay. This angel of a man makes it all worth it.
“You’re dating!?” Han squeaks out, throwing Din’s train of thought off entirely.
“Um, yes?’ Luke gives him a look that screams are you stupid?
“You said you were partners!”
Leia shakes her head with a mumble that sounds like, “you have to be joking,” and Chewie lets out some offending sounds Din doesn’t understand. Even Ben looks exasperated, but he might just be copying his mother.
“Yes, Han, as in dating partners,” Luke says every word carefully. It might be in a joking way but given what just happened, he might actually need this spelled out.
The smuggler squints his eyes like he’s trying to decide if he’s imagining this or not. “You mean to tell me that in the three months we’ve been away, you shacked up with a Mandalorian?”
“Han!” Luke and Leia snap at the same time. If Din wasn’t so uncomfortable he’d observe how yes, they really are twins aren’t they?
“What!?” Han cries out, “you’re crazy, kid! I thought you were like, partners with the school! I mean, he has a lightsaber on his hip, doesn’t he?”
Din glances to his belt and realizes he brought the darksaber without realizing it. He carries it around often now, especially after the incident with Luke and that wild beast. Now he feels stupid, that should’ve been a no-brainer to leave behind when meeting new people. He tries not to think about how one day, someone will know exactly what it is and either bow or challenge him for it.
“It’s not a lightsaber,” Luke corrects, “it’s the darksaber, it belongs to the Mandalorians.”
Han blinks at him, “what’s the difference?”
Luke sighs, “well, all Jedi’s get lightsabers. The darksaber is significant because it’s the only one that exists.”
“Oh,” is he finished with questions now , “so why do you have it, Mando?”
If irritation was a visible force, it would be hitting Din in the face like harsh waves. “I won it in battle, it’s rightfully mine.”
“Wait,” Leia chimes in this time. She looks like she’s trying to process something and it’s just on the tip of her tongue. “It’s a weapon that can only be won in combat? And it has a certain weight to it?”
She squints her eyes, “Mando, are you a leader?”
Fuck. “No,” he blurts out, “this is temporary.”
“...You’re temporarily the ruler of your people?”
He clenches his fists, “I won it unfairly.”
“You just said you won it in combat.”
“Well, yes but someone else was after it.”
She gives him an unimpressed look, “I don’t think that’s how that works.”
Din lets out a rough sigh. He’s not going to win this argument, he hasn’t even won this argument with Luke or… even himself. He unclenches his fist, “technically, yes. I am the king of Mandalore.”
“You shacked up with the king of Mandalore!?”
“ Han! ”
The rest of that night went by- thankfully- in a less eventful fashion. They brushed the Mand’alor thing under the rug and listened to what Han and Leia had been up to over their dinner. Turns out Han wasn’t lying, their current life was lacking any sort of excitement beyond a peace treaty or political figure coming for a visit. It’s odd to Din how he can’t relate to that longing for adventure now, but he’s making his peace with it little by little.
Surprisingly enough, Din got a few words in with Ben as well. He seemed timid around the Mandalorian but when Luke gently encouraged him to speak, he rattled off question after question. He’s a funny kid, Din decided, one he would be happy to meet again. A part of him wishes Ben could join the school but seeing him glow under his mother’s arm tells him that the kid is exactly where he should be. They parted unceremoniously, shaking hands and offering to have breakfast the next morning but Din has to decline, he’s got a bunch of eager little ones to tend to.
That leads us to know, walking down a stone hallway to Luke’s room where a new, nervous energy is growing between them. The thought of sharing quarters never occurred to Din, he’s always been a man of privacy and had respect for others as well. He’s only been in the bedroom a handful of times and never to stay, mostly to pass along a message or ask him to leave the room. Oh, and there’s the helmet thing as well.
“Um,” Din mumbles, “I’m not going to take my helmet off…”
Luke nods his head, “I figured as such.”
He cocks his head to the side, “you did? But we’re sharing a room.”
“I know that.”
“So your plan is…?”
“I’m going to blindfold myself.”
Din stumbles, barely catching himself from a full on trip. It makes a half-asleep Grogu giggle but that’s only because he’s in Luke’s arms, safe from any catastrophe. He shoots his head up and speaks with an embarrassingly strained voice. “You’ll what !?”
Luke shrugs, “it should work, right? I have plenty of blindfolds hanging around, I use them for practice.”
“You can’t do that, it’s your room!”
“I offered it to you, didn’t I?”
Din huffs, he won’t win this argument, will he? He’s only seen Luke with his naked eyes once, even then he was captivated and that was before he was in love. God help him, he’s already feeling flushed just at the thought of it. He clears his throat, admitting defeat in his own way, and straightens up.
“What’re you nervous about then?” He inquires, unable to forget the awkward feeling between them seconds ago.
“You are,” he pushes, “I can feel it.”
“That’s awfully Jedi of you, Mandalorian.”
His rolled eyes go unseen. “I don’t need to be a Jedi to understand you, Luke.”
“No,” the blonde murmurs, “just a lover, I suppose.”
Silence follows that statement but it only lasts a moment, a comfortable moment. Will it always take Din’s breath away when Luke talks like that?
Luke turns his head to face him, “it’s just… sharing a room is special, isn’t it?”
A beat. “Yes, I think it is.”
They reach his room in a matter of seconds after that. Grogu is fully asleep by then, breathing out quiet snores into Luke’s shoulder, it makes the Jedi smile softly. Din gently opens the door, mindful of any creaks it could make. The crib is set up in the corner of the room, just a few footsteps away from the bed. Not that that matters though, Grogu always sleeps through the night.
The bed is just big enough to fit two people, that is, if they’re willing to get a little friendly with each other. It makes sense, it’s not meant for two, but it will have to do. Luke passes the toddler off to Din who goes to lay him down. He wishes he could press a kiss to his tiny, wrinkled forehead but there’s time for that later. For now, he softly rubs his pointy ears with his index finger and thumb.
“Sleep good, ad'ika .”
It takes a moment for him to tear his gaze from his son, but when he does he feels his soul rattle a bit. Luke is standing in front of him, soft eyes burdened with nerves but overcome with love all the same. He’s holding his hands out and in them is a simple black blindfold, just as promised. Din takes a deep breath before stepping forward, closing the distance between them.
“Of course I am,” Luke huffs a little laugh, “but… I want you to put it on me.”
Din blinks, his mind running a mile a minute but unable to land on a single coherent thought. A shiver runs up his spine in the best and worst way possible, it makes his body tremble ever so slightly.
“You… You do?”
Luke nods and pushes his hands forward ever so slightly, “yes, I do.”
His chest goes tight, but he couldn’t deny his lover anything. Shaky hands come up and accept the piece of cloth, raising it to cover the other man’s eyes. “Tell me if I tie it too tight,” he whispers and starts to wrap. It goes over his face twice though it’s thick enough to fulfill its purpose in one go, but this way it won’t slip off. He’s as gentle as he can be creating the knot, careful to keep his hair out. Luke doesn’t speak but his lips quiver every few seconds, it’s reassuring in a weird way, like they both don’t know what they’re doing.
With a final tug, he lowers his hands and lets them fall to his sides. He really can’t see, can he? He takes a deep breath and swallows down the lump that formed in his throat. Everything about the moment is intoxicating; the way Luke looks ethereal just by standing there, the trust he put in his hands so certainly it brings a fresh tear to Din’s eye. He feels drunk on it. He lets that feeling control him, drive his next movements and that’s to take his helmet off. The way the fresh air hits his face almost gives him whiplash but he doesn’t pay it much mind, he has other things to pay attention to.
He lets the piece of armor fall to the carpet with a thud. He pays it no mind, opting to dive in and let his chapped lips find Luke’s softer ones. A surprised gasp escapes the Jedi’s lips but he’s quick to recover, reciprocating the kiss with enthusiasm. His arms wrap around Din’s neck, pulling him down as far as he can go without stumbling to the ground. It makes him smile which makes the kiss messier but neither can bring themselves to care. Any kiss they share is perfect, Din decides.
Eventually they break for air. The way Luke pants against his mouth makes his head spin and it’s hard enough to ground himself at the moment. After a few moments, they rest their foreheads against each other in another, though unintentional, kiss.
“Let’s go to bed,” Luke whispers.
Din nods his head. “Okay, cyar'ika.”
The sunlight filters through the room in thin streaks, hidden at large by the leaves that hang out the window. It gently rests on Luke whose face lays merely inches away from Din’s own. Golden locks fall over his blindfolded eyes, they shine brighter with the sun and he can’t look away. He’s so peaceful, lips so kissable, his chest blooms with love. He’d spend every morning like this if he could. He’d spend hours counting the freckles on his lover’s face if he could. Memorize the way his skin dips with old scars that only add to his beauty. I can’t wait to see you without the blindfold , he thinks blissfully, how I’ll see your eyes flutter open.
He lets his mind wander there for a moment, then he bursts his own bubble with a sudden realization. The only way he could spend mornings with Luke without the blind fold is… if they got-
Before he can finish that thought, a sudden “bah!” Breaks the silence, calling for Din’s attention. He rotates his body best he can in the small, shared space and locks eyes with Grogu. He’s standing up in the crib, giving him a sweet smile that kindly warns his father of the impending tantrum he’ll throw if he’s not picked up immediately.
“Alright, bud,” he huffs, pulling himself out of the bed. “We have a full day to get started anyway.”
He plucks the toddler out of his space and tucks him in his left arm. On the floor is his discarded helmet, he leans down to pick it up and awkwardly places it back on his head. He places Grogu down and quietly gathers his armor where it rests by the foot of the bed to put it back on. He hates to leave Luke like this, beautifully asleep and now alone, but he made a promise to the younglings and he’ll see it through. With that, he gives the man a final, longing look and heads out the door, ready to start his day.
The outing with the orphans went as smoothly as expected. They’ve always been good with Din, they’re good kids in general but, like Luke had once mentioned, they take to the Mandalorian in an unexpected way. It was a simple trip, a hike to a lake that was just far enough to make it an adventure of sorts. They swam in the early hours until lunch when they made their way back home. It was nice until a little hand tugged on his pants, beckoning him down to the child’s level.
“What’s up?” He asked in a patient voice, recognizing them as one of the more quiet kids.
“Um,” they stuttered, “I think I left m-my necklace by the lake.”
Ah, of course, and right as they were about to arrive at the temple. He hummed, glancing at his group of children and trying to decide what best to do. His gaze landed on the oldest of them, at least twelve or thirteen-years-old, and beckoned him closer.
“I’m going back for a missing necklace,” he informed the boy, “I want you to take the lead back to the temple. Can you do that?”
The child’s eyes lit up with determination, “yes, sir!”
Din smiles and ruffles the boy’s hair before passing Grogu into his arms. “Be sure to tell Luke what I’m doing,” he adds and nods his head in a way of saying get moving . The youngling scampers off to the head of the group and Din watches just long enough to see them disappear around the bend. When they’re out of sight, he turns around and starts his own little quest.
The seasons are changing now, he’s sure of it when he sees a lone red leaf amongst a sea of green. It’s strange, Din wasn’t expecting a proper season cycle from the planet and almost didn’t believe Luke when he was gushing about the beauty of it. Apparently, in a few weeks the entirety of the forest will be covered in brilliant hues of orange, yellow and red. A sight so stunning it’ll take his breath away like nothing else.
I can’t wait to be by your side when I see it , he had thought then, and he still thinks it now.
He’s so enraptured by the beauty around him, he almost finds himself diving into the lake. Thankfully, catches himself mid trip, saving himself from the embarrassment of showing up soaked to the bone. Giving the area a quick scan to be sure nobody saw what just happened, he sighed and went back to what he came to do. The necklace was resting on a stone along with another child’s jacket. He fondly rolls his eyes then falls into a steady jog, hoping to catch the late lunch before it’s too late.
The clearing in front of the temple is once again bursting with energy when he arrives. Though lessons are on hold for the week, the younglings are showing off their newfound skills with more enthusiasm than they ever show on a normal day. Carefully navigating through floating rocks, and even people, he spots the child who sent him on his quest and taps them on the shoulder.
“Here,” he passes the necklace over along with the jacket, “go find who this belongs to.” He turns to a boy on his right, the one he left in charge, but does a double take when he doesn’t see his son with him. “Where’s Grogu?”
“Mrs. Organa said she’d watch him.”
Mrs… oh, Luke’s sister? Confusion flooded his unseen features, what would she want with Grogu? She seemed to take a liking to him the day before but Din didn’t expect her to want to spend time with him. He thanks the orphan and scans the crowd for the mentioned pair.
They’re not hard to find; Leia, much like Luke, has a powerful aura that follows her everywhere. While Luke’s is loud and bright as the sun, Leia’s is a quiet hum with a gentle glow like the stars. She has the comforting pull of a mother with the power to relax anyone around her. On that same note, it can sharpen like a dagger when it needs to. Then the glow is less ethereal and more of a warning, once again, like a mother.
Right now, that sweet aura is glowing with love as she watches the two children beneath her cheerfully play. Grogu is happily showing her and Ben the things Luke has taught him, such as levitating three rocks at once and babbling at a great speed. Of course, he can do more things, these just happen to be his favorite.
The sight makes Din feel warm inside. It’s not unlike the time they spent on Sorgon, when the village children showed him their games and hunted for frogs just to indulge him. A part of him aches at the thought of how long Grogu has waited for moments like this, how long he spent hiding and never getting to be a true child. But, better late than never, Din concludes in the end.
As he strides up to the trio, Leia looks up and gives him a charming smile. “Hello, Mando.”
He nods his head in acknowledgement, “Mrs. Organa.”
“Oh,” she scoffs, “please, call me Leia. Formalities don’t matter here.” She pats at the empty space on the bench she’s sitting on, he wordlessly follows her lead and sits. “I hope it’s okay that I took over watching Grogu here.”
Din shakes his head, “I’m glad you did, he looks like he’s having a good time.”
Leia hums, turning her gaze from the armored man back to the children. There’s a beat of comfortable silence before she speaks again. “Luke speaks so fondly of this little guy, I think I understand why.”
She nods, “oh yes. Couldn’t get the guy to shut up today,” she chuckles, “but it’s sweet. He loves him.”
Her words leave Din’s nerves on fire in that familiar, painful but amazing way. Yes, he knows Luke loves Grogu, maybe even as much as Din, but it’s like magic to hear.
Then his stomach wavers with the demand of food and he remembers what his original plan was. He was going to pick up lunch and lay Grogu down for a nap but looking at him now… maybe it’s okay to skip it for today.
“Is it okay if you watch him a while longer? I was hoping to eat.”
Leia gives him another sweet smile and nods her head, “of course.”
He nods his head in a silent “thank you,” and takes his leave. Grogu hardly notices but he doesn’t mind it, mindless fun is good for him. He heads inside.
The next morning is just as the one before. Luke was asleep in bed and Din was up rounding the orphans for their next outing. Today’s plan is to take them to the local village to pick out snacks and have a picnic since it’s certain they won’t make it back for lunch. Truthfully, it was an excuse for Din to pick up some extra ingredients at Luke’s request but that’s okay, the kids never visit the village so it’s special.
They’re outside where a light rain is coming to a finish, the kids are stomping on puddles while they wait for Kit and Silus to finish putting their boots on. Din watches them curiously when he notices their pet salamander’s jar isn’t with them, they never let that animal out of their sight. It looks like that hasn’t changed though, because with just a second more of observation, he spots the creature on Kit’s shoulder.
“Is it a good idea to let him out?” He asks.
Kit blinks up at him but doesn’t say anything, she just nods and goes back to fastening the boot’s laces. Silus, on the other hand, is more than happy to fill the silence. “We’ve been training him!” He answers with blinding enthusiasm, “he does really good out of the jar!”
Din nods his head, “carry on, then.” The siblings get up and run to join their friends up ahead, the poor salamander holds on for dear life on the bumpy ride. Deciding they’re ready, Din heads to the front of the group, picking Grogu up on the way. They all fall into a “line,” if you can even call it that.
Just as they start to head off, there’s a shout coming from the temple. “Mando!” It’s Han, and next to him is Ben and Chewie. Oh fuck , he thinks and swallows down his nerves.
“Solo,” he greets as they come closer to him. Taking in their appearance, Din can’t help but notice how they seem dressed as if they’ll be out for quite a while, like they’re going on a little outing of their own… Oh fuck-
“Got room for three more?” Han asks with a smile. It’s a smile with good intentions, no doubt about that, but it makes Din want to slap him just a little.
Din cocks his head, “you know it’s just an outing to the village, right?”
Chewie says something he can’t understand and Han nods his head, “yeah, well junior here,” he gestures to Ben, who’s joining in on a conversation with one of the younglings, “had a good time with Grogu yesterday. Luke and Leia insisted he join, and Luke mentioned you might get a heavy load on the way and could use the extra help.”
Well, now that’s just a flat out lie, isn’t it? He has to give credit to his lover though, he set up this forced bonding experience perfectly. How does he know it’s forced? Because this isn’t the first time Din has made a last minute trip like this, actually, it happens quite often. He wonders if Han and Chewie know about their friend’s deceiving ways.
“Extra help is always appreciated,” he grits out and hopes they can’t hear the strain in his voice. If they do, they don’t show it, Han just claps his hand on his shoulder and starts walking ahead. Chewie gives him an apologetic look though, so maybe someone knows about Luke’s antics.
They walk for a little over half an hour and in that time Han has not once shut his mouth. He’s not as easy to talk to as Luke or Leia or, hell, even Chewie. He’s more self absorbed and unfortunately has a never ending amount of stories to tell, all starring himself, of course. He actually reminds him of Cobb Vanth, maybe they’ve met before. He’s not sure if that would lead to them being best friends or mortal enemies.
“... and that was before we met Boba Fett!”
“You know Boba Fett?” Din pipes up, suddenly interested in this conversation.
“You mean knew , we threw him in a sarlacc pit a few years ago.”
“He’s definitely alive,” if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have had to send that embarrassing message about shooting down a job. In the end, Boba was just heckling him and didn’t give him anymore shit, but it still makes him cringe. “He helped me save Gro- … Find Luke.”
Han blinks owlishly at him, like this is some rather disturbing news. “I… How could anyone survive that?”
Din shrugs, “he’s a resilient man. But, if you’re the one who threw him in, I’d avoid Tatooine, he’s sort of a crime lord now.”
Han and Chewie share an uneasy look and nod their heads, probably agreeing to what Din just said. “Ah, whatever,” the smuggler shrugs his shoulders, “Tatooine is a shit-hole anyway.”
For once, they agree.
As they come up on the village, the sun has long since dried the remaining drops of rain and it’s now a perfect day. There’s an older guard at the entrance of a rather small gate, clearly there as a border not so much a line of defense. The man’s name is Ruto and Din is pretty familiar with him at this point. A few friendly conversations here and there leave him with the knowledge that Ruto is a widower, lost his husband a few years ago, and took up the job of being a guard because it’s easy to meet new people this way. It doesn’t surprise Din when his wise eyes light up with excitement at seeing so many new people.
“Well, Mando!” He rasps out, “I see you’ve brought visitors!”
Din nods his head, “just a few padawans, they’ve been eager to get out of the temple.”
Ruto nods his head in understanding, “who’s the little one you’ve got in your arms?”
The armored man holds Grogu out a little, “this is my son, Grogu.”
A smile spreads across the old man’s face, “ah! I remember now! He’s awfully cute, must be everyone’s favorite, eh?”
“He sure is Luke’s favorite,” Han mumbles behind him, a fond smile on his face as well.
“Oh?” Ruto narrows his eyes at the smuggler and Wookiee behind Din. “And who are you two?”
“Han Solo,” he gestures back to Chewie, “and this is Chewbacca. We’re just tagging along for the day.”
“They’re friends of Luke,” Din adds, knowing that it’ll put the guard at ease.
Ruto nods, “oh! Well, any friend of Luke’s is a friend of ours. Come on in, boys.”
Giving him a “thank you” in their language, he gestures for the kids to walk through the already open gate and follows once they’ve all passed through. The village is far from the biggest Din has ever seen but it’s definitely larger than it looks. There’s vendors lining the street with delicious food that catches the children’s eyes. Din knows he’ll be paying for a ridiculous amount of food today but finds some ease in the fact that they like him enough to give him a “Mando discount.”
“Nice place,” Han comments as he looks around, “not exactly what I expected but it’s nice.”
Chewie roars something out, startling someone passing by but they just laugh when they realize where the noise came from. Din huffs, this trip is going to be far from normal.
There’s a small vendor at the very end of the street with baskets of various fruits and vegetables laid out. Din is familiar with the owner as well, he doesn’t know their backstory like he does with Ruto but they have a friendly relationship nonetheless. He heads straight there, confident that they’ll be the one with the right ingredients because they always are.
“Lindi,” he greets as he walks up to the stall.
Lindi looks up at him, their barely opened eyes full of amusement. “Mando, I see you’ve brought a tornado with you today.”
He chuckles, “it couldn’t be helped, I promised them a day out.”
They hum, “always a man of your word. What can I get you today?”
He rattles off the list of ingredients, some he can barely pronounce that gets a little chuckle out of Lindi. As he predicted, this was just the place to go because everything is in full supply. A bag almost overflowing with his purchase is handed over with a particular fruit placed on top.
“I didn’t ask for this,” he points at it.
“Oh I know,” they wink, “it’s on me. You’re my favorite Mandalorian customer, after all.”
He huffs fondly, “thank you, Lindi. Have a nice day.”
Scooping the bag up, he turns around to find Han and Chewie watching him with careful, confused eyes.
“How long have you been living here, again?” Han asks.
Din shrugs, “a few months.”
“These people act like you’ve lived here for years.”
He shrugs again, “Luke introduced me to them and they trust Luke. They must’ve taken his word for it.”
Sudden understanding washes over the two smuggler’s faces. “Makes sense,” Han nods, “Luke can’t shut up about you.”
He can’t? Din wants to ask, but he also doesn’t want to hear Han launch into another story, no doubt a super embarrassing one now that Din is involved. He just nods his head in return and walks away, deciding now is a good time to round up the children to pick out food.
But, he can’t deny the way he feels a little bit lighter with that new knowledge.
The picnic was nice in the end. The ground was dry enough for them to sit and enjoy their meal then eventually run off to play as they always do. He was subjected to another one of Han’s stories but this time the details were apparently wildly inaccurate which meant a lot of heckling from Chewie. He may not understand the Wookiee but he didn’t need to to get a laugh out of it.
They lose track of time, the afternoon turns to evening and the sun starts to set, painting the sky a beautiful sunset. The walk back is uneventful but enjoyable, two kids- Ben and Grogu, of course- fall asleep somewhere along the way leaving the trio in charge of carrying them back. They don’t mind though, and Din finally sees a side of Han he can relate to. The way the smuggler’s eyes soften at the sight of his sleeping son and the gentle way he rocks him though he’s resting soundly reminds Din of himself. He decides that Han isn’t bad, not by a long shot, just… difficult.
The moonlight is what carries them home in the end. Din gives the children permission to sneak a late night snack before going to bed, feeling bad they missed dinner but knowing they wouldn’t be hungry for a full meal anyway. He bids Han and Chewie goodnight and heads off to Luke’s room with Grogu still asleep in his arms.
Luke is laying in bed when he walks in. He’s dressed in his usual sleep attire, a tank top and boxers, but with a blindfold on now. It makes Din’s heart flutter in his chest though he can’t explain why. He lays Grogu down in a careful manner before stripping off his armor as quietly as he can. He does a good job of it until his shoulder plate slips from his grasp and collides with the pile of beskar he’s made on the ground. Grogu doesn’t stir but Luke sure does.
“Din?” The Jedi’s voice calls out, thick with sleep. He sits up ever so slightly, maybe blinking a little but the blindfold hides any expression of such. “Is that you?”
“It’s me, cyar'ika ,” he strips off the last piece of armor, his helmet, and places it on the bedside table. Deciding the underclothes he had on would be sort of gross to sleep in, he quickly removes and replaces them with a cleaner pair. It might be nice to sleep shirtless, the weather is rather hot after all, but holding hands was still a bit of a shock for him, god forbid he feels his lover on his naked chest.
“You were out long,” Luke mumbles after a long moment, probably fading in and out of sleep.
“We lost track of time,” he explains as he slips into bed. “Didn’t help that I had a little extra… company.”
Luke huffs out his laugh, wrapping his free arm around Din’s torso. “It couldn’t have been that bad.”
Din sighs, thinking back on when the kids fell asleep. “No, it wasn’t,” a smirk finds itself across his face, “but he did say something interesting.”
“Something about how you won’t shut up about me.”
An offended gasp escapes Luke’s lips. “Oh that bastard,” he grits out, “I knew he’d sell me out somehow.”
Din chuckles, maybe louder than he should but it can’t be helped. He presses a kiss to Luke’s cheek, just below the blindfold. “Let’s go to sleep.”
Luke doesn’t say anything, just a hum of acknowledgment and a snuggle further into his chest. That’s all Din needs before he drifts off for the night.
It’s the fourth day of visiting week and the exhaustion is finally settling in. He wouldn’t say he’s running out of things for them to do but he’s definitely running out of things to do. They took a simple hike for a few hours, back in time for lunch unlike the day before, but he has nothing in mind for tomorrow. It plagues his thoughts as they walk back from their activity. He can’t even appreciate the way the once green leaves are starting to yellow at their tips. He’s getting tired.
The group disbands when they reach the temple, leaving Din and Grogu alone but he seems to want to go off on his own as well. Din lets him, the kid knows his way around the place probably better than Din does and they’ve been living there the same amount of time. He decides to go into the kitchen and grab a snack, maybe head into the room for a nap but just a moment to himself would be nice.
Unfortunately, he can’t be granted any privacy as he does so. Inside the kitchen is where one of the biggest families are lounging about, chatting loudly as if it’s their mission to disturb any peace the universe might bring. And, of course, their eyes go straight to the armored man and crinkle in disgust. He sighs, looks like the snack is off the table today.
Ignoring their looks, he heads down the long hallway to his and Luke’s shared room. At most, he can hang out there for a few minutes if not hours. But, his unlucky streak doesn’t let up as he finds the room full of Luke’s own family. Frustration prickles at his skin but his lover always seems to be in tune with what he’s feeling so he forces that away. Ignoring his better judgment, he walks into the room.
“Hello, Mando,” Leia greets him first. She’s sitting on their bed next to Ben who looks bored out of his mind. Han is standing by them looking out the window, probably bored as well, while Luke is throwing on a tan poncho from the other side of the room.
“Hey!” Luke walks over and gently pulls him down to meet their foreheads in a kiss. It’s almost enough to make his frustrations disappear.
“Hey, Mando!” Han greets next.
“Hello,” he mumbles out, not entirely optimistic about the scene playing out in the room.
“We were going to go have lunch,” Luke informs him, “want to join us?”
And, oh, just about every part of Din wants to say no. Nothing would make him happier than to rip off his helmet for the day and sleep until the early hours of the following morning. But he knows how much it would mean to Luke for him to say yes, how important it is to his lover that he not only gets along with his family, but likes them as well.
It almost physically pains him to say, “okay, that’d be nice.”
They head out to the forest area behind the school where a few stone tables and benches are set up. Despite being in a relatively deep part of the forest, it’s poorly shaded and generally miserable to be in when the summer hits, which is all Din has been around for. But the weather is cooler today, refreshing in a way it never is except for when it rains, but even then the humidity is grueling.
Chewie joins them somewhere along the walk outside with a wooden basket supposedly full of lunch items. It’s tempting, but Din decides he won’t eat. The exhaustion of the day and doing something as vulnerable as showing his skin is all too much for him now. He’ll eat before the day is over, just not now. For now, he’ll struggle through this lunch.
They launch into a conversation easily with the years of bonding they’ve built up. Old memories spill from their lips along with laughter and snarky comments. All the while Din struggles to recall a single detail of their stories, his mind still caught up on his youngling troubles and how tired he truly is. He’s so far gone, he doesn’t even notice Luke retelling the story of his rescue on Gideon’s ship.
“Luke, oh my god,” Leia says in an unimpressed voice, dropping her head into her hand.
Han shrugs, “well, that’s still not as bad as when he picked up that kid- what’s her name? Zala? Definitely better than her rescue.”
Luke purses his lips, just barely not a pout. “That mission wasn’t that bad, guys!”
“You were stabbed , Luke.”
Din’s head snaps up, “I’m sorry, what? ”
Leia throws her unimpressed look his way. “A year ago, mr. Mighty-Jedi here got a vision of a kid in danger and left in the middle of the night without warning anyone until he reached his destination. Turns out the kid was being held captive and he was ambushed. He’s lucky we were close by!”
Luke scoffs, “it was definitely more heroic than that.”
Han shakes his head, “no, it went exactly like that.”
The armored man blinks, feeling both jarred by the information he’s been given and uncomfortable by the lack of severity it’s being treated with. “You were stabbed?”
Luke sighs, “well, yeah. It was a pretty heavy ambush but I managed to fight them off in the end. Plus,” he waves his mechanical hand in the air, “it’s not like I haven’t dealt with worse, more permanent injuries.”
He starts to feel sick to his stomach as his next words tumble out of his mouth before he can stop them. “But, what if you died?”
Luke gives him a shocked look, probably surprised by the insistence in the armored man’s voice, but he blinks it away for a more contemplative face. Eventually he gives a half-hearted shrug, “I don’t know. All I know is that I saved Zala, she was my top priority. I’m a Jedi, after all, this is my responsibility.”
The answer doesn’t do anything to calm the nerves stirring in every inch of Din’s body. If anything, it makes him feel sicker knowing that Luke just accepts this as part of his life. Even worse, he sounds like he’d do it again if he had to. And, yeah, Din gets it, putting your life on the line for a child is something Din is far more familiar with than he should be, but this is Luke .
They slip back into a cheerful conversation, oblivious to the fear they’ve created in him. Din realizes he’s not going to eat today after all.
He had a restless night of sleep and it’s shaping up to be an even worse morning. While Luke’s mere presence usually brings comfort, today it makes him feel terrible anxiety. He imagines what the Jedi might’ve looked like on that mission, bleeding all over the place and unconscious, in desperate need of medical attention he can’t get. Bile rises in his throat thinking about what would have happened if help didn’t arrive on time, if his lover died there that day.
He rubs his naked knuckle against Luke’s soft cheek, trying to savor the moment best he can. He can’t stop his mind from racing, making up all these terrible scenarios that’ll plague his mind for hours, but he’ll be damned if he can’t admire his lover in the sunlight. He just hopes for many, many more mornings exactly like this.
A whole new sense of dread floods him when he steps outside of the room and realizes he has no plan for the day. He suppresses a groan that would definitely wake up the rest of the temple. Curse this planet, he thinks bitterly, curse this planet and all the boring, nonexistent activities it comes with . No doubt the children have gathered outside by now, probably ready for whatever Din has in store. He sighs, there’s a back up plan, it’s not much of a plan and more like buying time, but he digresses.
And he’s right, they’re playing in the grass when he walks out but still give him looks that say you’re late . He takes a deep breath, knowing his next words will probably make them even more annoyed.
“Sorry guys, I forgot to mention what we’re doing today is after lunch.” He winces at their groans, nobody hates waking up unnecessarily early quite like these padawans. He winces again when one of the kids asks what they’re going to do and blatantly ignores it, but what’s he supposed to say? At least this way they’re optimistic.
“Go back to sleep guys, I’ll get you when I’m ready.”
They shuffle inside with tired grumbles of annoyance, maybe they needed a day to sleep in. When they’re out of sight, the armored man falls into a tired slouch, he wishes he could join them. He looks down to his side on instinct to check Grogu but does a double take when he doesn’t find him there. He swings his head to his sides before the realization dawns on him. He forgot to get his son this morning.
He doesn’t stop himself from groaning this time, yesterday’s lunch threw him off more than he realized. The still-rising sun shines straight through his visor and into his eye. He snaps it shut but lets himself turn to its source, just catching the blinding glory of the morning. He may have a lot on his mind but the sight makes him relax ever so slightly, it’s not too early for a walk.
Yes, a walk would be nice. Nobody should be up now, he would avoid running into anyone and it’d give him time to work out an activity for the day. Okay, he’ll take a walk.
The only downside of being outside so often these days is how lackluster the forest has become. Yes, it’s still beautiful and this is truly a morning to behold, but he knows every twist and turn at this point. The subtle yellowing leaves are the only new thing the planet has to offer and they’re few and far between. It shouldn’t matter much but it’s almost distracting, like the forest is intentionally boring to throw off his train of thought. Luke might say something along the lines of his mind needing stimulation and there’s a lack of it, but thinking of Luke only makes his mind wander further, so he doesn’t let that go anywhere.
He finds himself coming up onto the stream he and Grogu were at days ago before the week started. The memory makes him sigh, everything was less hectic then, so peaceful and he didn’t even know what was to come. He longs to be in his former self’s shoes. He’s truly exhausted now.
“I didn’t expect to see anyone out here,” a voice calls from behind. He flinches and instinctively whips around, ready for a fight, but drops his defensive stance when he sees who it is.
“Leia,” he greets, his voice is more strained than he intended it to be.
Leia isn’t phased but the amused smile on her face tells him that she knows he was startled. “I thought you’d be out with the younglings by now.”
He shifts uncomfortably, “it’s actually after lunch today, I thought they could use the rest.”
She nods, Din can’t help but wonder if she sees straight through his easy lie. If she does, she doesn’t say anything. She takes a seat on a large rock, one just close enough to the river for her to dip her feet into if she desired. “It’s really nice of you to take the kids out everyday like that. You must really like them.”
The comment makes Din cock his head to the side questioningly, “I do…?”
“Do you like them because they’re Luke’s students?”
He pauses, letting the question mull over in his head. “No,” he decides, “I met them because they’re Luke’s students. I like them because I’ve come to know them.”
She smiles, “I was hoping you’d say that.” Her eyes drift to the water but the conversation is far from over. “You’re exactly as Luke says you are.”
Curiosity pricks at his skin but he can’t bring himself to ask her to elaborate. It feels too vulnerable for him, too self indulgent. Luckily, he doesn’t need to ask, Leia seems to pick up on it herself.
“He says you’re a good man, worthy of your title as king. I admit, I wasn’t sure what to think of you at first. You’re a blocked off man, Mando, hard to understand you that way, but your actions speak louder than your words.” She pauses and Din wonders where she’s going with this. “It’s clear you enjoy those kids, you wouldn’t try so hard to make them happy if you didn’t. Everyone can see how much Grogu means to you. I know there’s a story there, one you didn’t tell us the full extent of, but we don’t need to know it to understand your relationship with him. I think you take everyone by surprise that way.” She pauses again, letting out a quiet sigh. “And, it’s obvious how much you care for my brother.”
She nods her head, “yes, I think it is. I know the story yesterday scared you, the things Luke has been through must sound terrifying. I guess they are, he gets into trouble so often I can’t process it sometimes.”
He cringes a little, that wasn’t exactly reassuring.
“But,” she continues, “it was the most vulnerable I’ve ever seen you. You love him, it’s clear to see, and I want to thank you.”
“Yes,” her eyes shift to meet his, “it sounds funny, but I really do. Luke carries a burden we’ll probably never understand, he deserves a taste of normalcy like the rest of us.” A breathy chuckle escapes her lips, not a humorous one, something Din can’t quite place. “I suppose this is a long winded way of saying that I like you, Mando, and I’m glad Luke has you.”
For a second, Din is speechless, the pieces of their conversation finally falling into place. He hesitantly nods his head, “thank you, Leia. I… I’m glad I have Luke.”
Her beautiful smile stretches even further, it makes the fierceness of her next words shocking. “Promise me you’ll take care of him.”
This time, Din doesn’t hesitate to nod.
“Right,” she pats her hands on her lap, “I’ll leave you to your walk then.” She slips off the rock gracefully, the perfect white robe she wears falls elegantly to her side. Perhaps she is an angel after all. “Have a good day, Mando.”
“Wait,” he calls out, one last thing on his mind. “Do- do you have any ideas for something I can do with the kids tonight?”
She blinks, then a smirk forms on her lips. “I knew you were lying,” her tone is teasing, it eases him, “but yes I think I do. Star gazing is always an option.”
Star gazing. That wouldn’t be Din’s first choice, hell, not even his second. He’s not particularly fond of stars, something about them he’s never really liked, but he’s out of ideas at this point. He nods his head and Leia is off, fast enough to be as if she was never there.
A warmness grows in his chest and only spreads from there, it almost makes him sick. This might not be what he had in mind on his walk but he got exactly what he needed and more. It’s funny, getting the family’s approval, he thought that’d wait until he married Luke.
Oh , he thinks with a jolt running through his veins, oh god I really thought that.
He turns his gaze to the running water that glistens in the sunlight. There’s a lot to unpack now, isn’t there?
The sun has gone and with it, any natural light to cover the forest floor. The stars are at their brightest now but Din still found it necessary to bring the younglings to the highest hill he could find in walking distance. The extra time asleep did them some good, they’re lively and energetic, he hopes they’ll stay awake the whole time. He’s setting up a rather large telescope one of the padawans luckily had when there’s a tap on his shoulder.
“Hi,” Luke says with a warm smile, one that just barely conceals his excitement. “Need any help?”
Wordlessly, Din pulls his lover’s head forward to connect their foreheads, then he steps to the side allowing Luke to take over. “Are you here to join us?” He prompts, suddenly feeling awkward without something to do.
“Of course! I love star gazing, it used to be my favorite thing to do when I was younger.”
Oh , Din muses, so that’s why Leia suggested it . An unseen smile forms on his lips, she’s clever, I’ll give her that.
“I imagine there’s not much else to do on Tatooine, huh?”
Luke crinkles his nose in a way that makes Din’s heart swoop. “Not in the slightest.” His skilled hands move effortlessly to connect the telescope to its stand, he dials it into focus with the same ease. “What about you? Do you like star gazing?”
He hesitates to answer, not sure what to say. “I’ve never really thought about it,” he lies. Years of flying to and from always surrounded by the damn things has given him plenty of time to think about it. He prefers to look away.
“Ah,” the Jedi takes a step back from his handy work, “well, I think you’re in for a treat.”
They find a spot on one of the spots where a blanket is laid out by the padawans. The kids take a few minutes to settle down in their own spots and when they do, a hush falls over the group. The sky is beautiful, breathtaking even. Glittering in a way you don’t see from largely populated planets, or ones with a climate too unbearable to be outside in. One of the younglings has a book from their library that was gifted by one of the locals. In it are the various constellations that can be seen from the planet, completely unique to Yavin. They crowd around it and point to the sky for what they can see or run to the telescope for a better look at what they can’t.
“Do you know any constellations?” Din asks, gesturing to the sky he’s not paying much attention to.
Luke, on the other hand, is staring at them intently. They reflect beautifully in his blue eyes, like they’ve always belonged there. Luke shakes his head, “no, I don’t. Teaching is always my top priority, I barely look to the sky most nights.” He lets out a wistful sigh, pulling his knees up to his chest and resting his head there. ‘I think I’ll have to make time for it, though. It’s beautiful, don’t you think?”
“Yes, I do,” but, Din isn’t looking at the stars. His eyes stay fixed on his lover, the starry-eyed Jedi. He can’t bring himself to like the useless lights in the sky, they offer nothing more than bland scenery to him. But, this moment with him and Luke under their watchful eyes is, he can admit that there’s a beauty to behold. No, he doesn’t like the stars, but he’d happily spend another night like this so long as his lover is by his side.
“I love you,” he whispers before he can stop himself.
Luke’s breath hitches and his face reddens ever so slightly, but he smiles so genuine. “I love you too.”
They watch the stars for another hour.
The next day went by in a hurry. The kids asked to go swimming one last time before the colder season sets in and Din, of course, obliged, relieved to not have to plan it himself. It was a good call too, today has a chill that seeps through the fabric of his clothes and slips under his already cold beskar.
Luke shudders as he pulls back from a particularly cold forehead kiss. “I guess kissing is going to be rough in the winter, huh?”
Din chuckles, “I never really thought about it, but I guess so.”
The Jedi laughs, it’s relieving to see today. By tonight, the visiting week will be over and everyone has to leave for the next three months, including Luke’s family. It’s been a bittersweet day, the way the children soak up their last few hours with their parents with tears in their eyes but genuine smiles on their faces makes Din ache. He couldn’t imagine leaving Grogu for three months at a time only to spend a single week together. But, he knows why they do it, and it’s generous that they can visit at all given the risk it comes with. The Jedi, much like the Mandalorian, are both hunter and prey, but children are always the most vulnerable.
On the bright side, the orphans are in good spirits. They had expressed how excited they are to start training again which is something Din never thought he’d hear. They’re spending the final day saying goodbye to their friend’s families and preparing to move their rooms back in order.
Din wonders if Luke will ask him to move back to his own room now. It would be a lie to say they grew entirely used to each other in the span of a single week but it’d also be a lie to say he didn’t want to be used to it. Waking up to the blindfolded man was always a surprise, one he welcomed but also longs to know it as second nature. One day he’d like to roll over and see him, all of him, just as expected and feel warmth in knowing that it will be like this for a long, long time.
In a matter of hours, the front of the temple is lit up with lanterns and the harsh glow of running ships. The clearing is buzzing with a dampened energy, opposing the unadulterated excitement just days before. Din had thought he’d be relieved and even happy to see the band of large, rude families leave, but he can’t bring himself to find that satisfaction when the children he cares so much for are hurting.
The oldest padawans are more composed, shedding a few tears but managing themselves in an almost impressive way- something Luke has proudly taught them. The youngest of them are crying, some borderline sobbing and others just whimpers, but they don’t have the same handle on their emotions. It can’t be helped, and Din can’t imagine forcing them to be such a way, it comes with maturity and practice. He watches one of the youngest, Myn, hug his parents for the last time before running into the arms of their oldest, Sella. They’ll be okay , he concludes, they have each other, just like a clan.
He wanders through the sea of bittersweet goodbyes until he finds Luke with his family, sharing their own farewell. Out of everyone he’s seen, they’re definitely taking it the best. Their smiles are real if not a little dim, probably mourning over the time they don’t have. But it seems very familiar for them, this isn’t their first time parting and it won’t be their last but they maintain the faith that they’ll always come to be together again. Leia’s eyes land on his armored ones and he knows he’s welcomed to join them.
“We really miss you, kid,” Han says as Din comes into their space.
“I miss you guys too,” Luke holds a standard, happy look on his face but his eyes say it all. The blue of his eyes look like a river in a rainstorm, they give away just how much he wants to hold on, to keep his family in his grasp and never let them go. He’d never do that though, Din doesn’t think Luke could ever try to hold someone down, much less actually do it. “We’ll meet again,” the Jedi eventually says, “so long as you behave, Han.”
Chewie rumbles out a laugh, even Leia cracks a smile. They take that moment to start hugging, no longer sharing words. Words probably can’t do their feelings justice but actions can sure as hell try. Han goes first, giving him a full body hug that Luke happily reciprocates. Chewie picks him up off the floor again but it’s more tender than before, holds a little more meaning. When he’s put back down, he wraps a sleepy Ben into a one-sided hug, the poor kid too tired to return his uncle’s affection. But the sweetest hug goes to Leia, a one that says a thousand words but only the two of them know what they are. If this is what their auras look like when they come together, Din thinks it’s beautiful in a peaceful, innocent way.
They walk them to the ramp of the Falcon when Din remembers his own goodbyes. Seems they did too.
“Mando,” Han pats his armored shoulder with a strangely genuine smile. “Take care, don’t let this guy get into trouble.”
Din shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “That’s nearly impossible,” he mumbles, then speaks up, “take care as well, Solo.” He turns his head to the Wookiee next to him, “and you too.” He still doesn’t understand him, but he had come to like Chewbacca and his impossible to understand ways. Chewie roars what Din assumes is him returning the gesture. And, purely because it felt rude not to, he threw a wave to the half-asleep boy as Han scoops him up, he falls asleep mid-wave back.
As the three of them board the ship, Leia steps up to Din, like she was waiting for her own moment with him. She doesn’t say anything at first, she looks him straight through his visor like she’s trying to read him. He breaks the silence first.
“I’m glad to have met you,” he admits, almost taken aback by his own honesty.
Leia nods, “and I you. I look forward to seeing you on my next visit.” Her eyes drift from him to Luke and back again with meaning. It’s so subtle, he almost didn’t catch it, but he’s watching her too intently to miss it. Her earlier words ring in his head, promise me you’ll take care of him . Is she asking him again? Or perhaps reminding him that he did agree to it, that he’s bound himself to those words. You don’t have to worry , he thinks, I will .
With one final, careful look his way and a last hug for Luke, she’s climbing aboard the ramp as well. As the ship starts up, the two men take a few steps back so as to not be in the way. Luke doesn’t move his gaze but Din can see the way he’s not focused on anything, the way sadness glosses over his beautiful eyes. Without hesitation, Din places a gloved hand on his lover’s forearm and squeezes gently, anything to let the Jedi know he’s here and he always will be. Luke sighs and lets himself lean in on the armored man, resting his head on his shoulder plate and taking in the moment. In a matter of minutes, the Falcon, along with the New Republic issued ships, disappear into an inky abyss.
They go inside.
There’s nothing. Plain, empty darkness and in the center of it all is Din. His eyes are wide and frantically looking around for anything, whether it be something dangerous or neutral, he needs to find something. He lets out a deep sigh and when the warmth doesn’t engulf his entire face, he realizes he’s not wearing his helmet. In fact, he’s not wearing any armor, just his underclothes- no gloves or shoes either.
A muted thud vibrates through the air. Din snaps his head to the source of the noise, ignoring the way the alarm in his head is blaring with the detection of danger. There’s a figure in the distance, it seems to be all black and lying on the floor. He walks there at a snail’s pace, not too keen at showing anything or anyone his bare face, but knowing he might not have a choice. As he gets closer, he realizes the figure is a person collapsed on the ground. They aren’t moving, there’s no rise and fall to indicate they’re breathing, they don’t even react to the way his bare feet smack the glass like flooring.
He gets to be about four feet away when he can see just a sliver of their face. Pale skin, drained of all life, with golden hair just peeking out of their hood- wait.
Bile rises in his throat and the rest of him could not move faster. He tumbles to a halt and falls to his knees next to the body he desperately doesn’t want to identify. No movement still, no indication of life. The blue of their lips that are oh so familiar to Din-
“No…” He croaks out. Before he can stop himself, he grabs the unmoving body and pulls them into his lap. He freezes as if a bucket of ice water was dropped on his head but it doesn’t stop the rush of pure anguish he feels in his entire being.
“Luke!” He eventually gasps, finding his voice again. The Jedi in his arms doesn’t respond, doesn’t move, doesn’t blink, doesn’t breathe- “Luke!” He runs his naked hands up and down his lover, unsure what to do or what he’s looking for other than any indication that he’s alive. His hands brush a wet spot on the Jedi’s torso and he freezes. Pulling his hand back, he sees a sticky red paint his fingers.
The once unnerving silence is now filled with terrible screeches and ringing that burn his ears, but he’s too paralyzed to react. He draws his gaze back to Luke’s face, his perfect, scarily pale face and realizes there’s no light in his eyes. His heartbeat becomes so loud it almost overtakes the volume of the cries around him. It takes another minute of pure terror to realize it’s not just indecipherable screaming, it’s words.
“PROMISE YOU’LL TAKE CARE OF HIM.”
He might be screaming, wailing, hollering but he has no idea. Leia’s words are all he can hear now and all he can focus on is his dead lover.
His eyes snap open.
He flies up and out of the bed but realizes too late that his legs are far too weak for that now. He doesn’t register the pain that shoots through his knees when they hit the too hard floor, he doesn’t register anything except for the horrible things he saw. He frantically looks around, expecting to see more of nothing but instead finding Luke’s room, exactly as it was when he fell asleep.
The events of the previous night (or current night? He has no idea. It’s still completely dark out and he can’t possibly guess how long he’s been asleep) come back to him slowly. After they came back inside, Din offered to take his stuff back to his room and leave Luke be now that they didn’t have to sleep together. The rustling sheets tell him that Luke didn’t take to that ideal very well.
He looks to the bed from his spot on the floor and realizes three things. One, Luke is here and in bed, they didn’t go their separate ways after all. Two, he’s moving an awful lot like he’s distressed though he’s still asleep, is he having a nightmare as well? Three, his blindfold isn’t covering his eyes, it’s hanging off his head at an awkward angle. Luke’s shifting quickly turns into thrashing, his eyebrows knit together and his closed eyes scrunch up. He’s going to wake up.
Din dashes to the nightstand where his helmet is. He almost falls again, his exhausted body not giving him much help at all but he manages. He shoves his helmet on his head in an almost painful way but he doesn’t have a choice, Luke is waking up now .
The Jedi’s eyes snap open in a downright frightening manner. His pupils are shrunk down to barely anything and the light is missing from them entirely. It makes Din shutter how similar it is to his nightmare. Luke takes a solid minute to move, a minute filled with frantic gasps for air and desperately trying to say something but having no words. When he does move, it’s to immediately jump out of the bed and run to his dresser.
Then the single most terrifying combination of words slips from his lips.
“I have to leave.”
Finding his strength again, Din finally pushes himself up from the floor, “you what ?”
Luke snaps his head around and looks straight at him with the same terrifying eyes. He looks shocked, like he didn’t know Din was there, Din thinks he might not have. A new layer of emotion finds itself on Luke’s face, something of fear and pain but Din can’t place it.
“I-“ The Jedi croaks, “I have- I have to go. I need to leave immediately! There- there’s something- I have to fix it-“ He turns back around to a huge chest that sits in the corner of the room. He flings the top open and frantically pulls just about everything from it, only stopping when he gets his hands on a raggedy, pre-packed brown bag.
“Luke, slow down,” he tries to be reassuring but the tremble in his own voice is evident. Luke doesn’t stop though, he turns to his dresser and starts throwing on the black robes he discarded on top of it from hours ago. “Luke! What’s going on!?”
“V-vision,” he sputters, gasping for breath as he struggles to explain. “Vision… I have to stop what’s coming.”
“What? You’re not making sense-“
“R2,” the droid beeps to life. It makes Din jump out of his skin, he forgot the damn thing was there. “Start the X-Wing.”
Din’s breath hitches, “what?” But Luke doesn’t respond, he’s muttering things to himself and chucking on every piece of clothing he can find with barely any care. “Luke! Stop this! You can’t leave!”
But the droid is already out the door. Slipping his last boot on, Luke grabs his lightsaber off the dresser and clips it to his side before running out as well. Din hesitates for a minute, frantically trying to process what just happened but coming up entirely blank. He snaps back to attention when he hears the roar of the X-Wing coming to life.
He races outside, his barely working legs struggling to carry him there but he wouldn’t dare stop. When he finally makes it outside, Luke is climbing up into his ship in an almost robotic way, like he’s on autopilot and can’t be stopped. But Din will be damned if he doesn’t try. He just gets to Luke just before it’s too late, wrapping his naked hand around the other man’s gloved hand.
“Luke! What the hell are you doing!?” He gasps out, suddenly aware of how he’s barely gotten air in his lungs this entire time.
A switch seems to go off in Luke’s head then, but the determined look on his face doesn’t falter, only his tense stance. Emotion finally floods back into his eyes but they’re far from comforting.
“I’m sorry,” he shakily calls out over the noise of the X-Wing, “but I need to go.”
“Why?! What’s going on!? Tell me!” His voice is hoarse now, only getting rougher every time he yells.
Luke looks to him, back to his ship then to him again like he’s weighing his options, like he’s running out of time and needs to go fast. Whatever internal battle he’s having comes to its conclusion, he swings his legs over the side of the ship and hops back down to the ground. His sorrowful eyes meet Din’s armored ones and it shakes his soul.
“I had a vision,” he shakily starts, “of- of something horrible. I can’t explain it. Bodies in tanks that look like monsters. Horrible experiments to bring them to life for the sake of rising to power I- I saw it all.” He sharply inhales and exhales a shutter-y mess. “I saw where they’re being kept and I- I need to stop it. I have to stop this- this horrible future.”
Din stares at him, struggling to understand anything he’s saying and only feeling worse the longer he thinks about it. Eventually, he manages to say something.
Luke’s eyes get wider, if that’s possible. “What?”
“Luke, no . You- you can’t do that.”
“Yes I do.”
“Says who!? I’ve seen what you’re describing and I barely made it out with my life. They’ll kill anyone who gets involved-“
“Then you know that if they succeed we’re all doomed!”
“You’re doomed if you go there!”
“You don’t know that.”
“You don’t know you’ll survive!” He’s yelling now, but he hardly has the mind to care. “Can you guarantee me you’ll live!? That they haven’t doubled down on their efforts to protect that- that abomination!? Can you, Luke!?”
Luke narrows his eyes, an unfamiliar harshness overcoming them. “No, I can’t. I accepted that when I became a Jedi,” he lets out a low sigh, almost akin to a growl. “This is what I’m meant to do. I have to.”
The scene is so painfully familiar, Din wonders if Luke realizes it too. How they stood here all those weeks ago, Din on the other side trying to leave while Luke begged him not to, begged him to stay. And he did, he turned around and stayed because he loves Luke. Why won’t you stay with me now?
“You’re… you’re so important to me,” he repeats the words Luke had told him that night. Luke must notice too, his hostile eyes go soft with recognition. “I don’t want you to go.” He takes a shaky breath, begging whatever creator is out there that this will work. “I love you so much.”
Luke’s crying now, the kind that starts with a few stray tears but evolves into full on sobs in a matter of seconds. Say you’ll stay , Din begs in his mind, too afraid to speak it out loud.
“I’m sorry,” Luke eventually chokes out, “I love you too- with all my heart-“ he falls into a fit of uncontrollable sobs, barely able to compose himself. “But- but I have to go.”
The Jedi takes a step back but falters, knowing there’s one last thing he needs to do. He breaks into a run, though the distance between them isn’t that great, and wraps his arms around Din’s neck, pulling him into an impossibly tight hug. Despite himself, Din wraps his arms around him with the same intensity, holding on as tight as he possibly can because he knows that when he lets go, he might never get this again. For a split moment, he entertains the thought of seriously not letting go, just holding him there until he promises to stay. He could laugh at himself for that. No matter how much it hurts, how badly he wants Luke to stay and how damn scared he is, he could never clip his lover’s wings like that. I could never hold you down , he thinks heartbrokenly.
When Luke pulls away, he lets him go. He stares straight into those beautiful eyes that he loves so much until they’re hidden by the ugly metal of the ship. He watches it rise from the ground in a graceful fashion and take off, disappearing into the night.
And he stands there.
The spot where the X-Wing just stood is mockingly empty. He stares at it, unable to watch the sky any longer, knowing his lover won’t be turning around. It was good. Everything was so good. He didn’t see the cold hands of despair coming to tease at the loose thread of his happiness. Maybe he should’ve expected this, it doesn’t take long for good things to find a bitter end in his life- no. He doesn’t dare let that thought go further. This isn’t the end, it can’t be.
He feels his right eyebrow twitch, misery finding itself in his face before it can even settle in his mind. He hates crying, always has and always will. Tears always feel like fire on his cheeks, torturing him physically, as if the cage of his own thoughts doesn’t do that job perfectly on its own.
But, his head still throbs and his eyes go wet. Like waves beneath a storm, it’s uncontrollable.
The first tear slips and with it his self control. He snaps his hands up and forces his thumbs under the cool beskar helmet, ripping it off without a second thought. The cold air feels horrible on his now naked face but he ignores it, he couldn’t think straight about this if he tried. Mustering up all his strength, he flings his helmet as far and as hard as he can.
He might’ve yelled at this point but the sound of the hollow metal hitting the rough ground was too stunning. It rings in his ears, in his very soul and makes time itself freeze. He stares for a minute, wide-eyed and pained. With a stuttering breath in, the armored, vulnerable man takes heavy steps to his helmet. It may seem that he’s alone, but he knows the stars are watching, probably amused by the display before them. They twinkle irritably so he doesn’t look at them, he can’t look at them.
When he reaches the discarded piece of armor, he hesitates and everything dawns on him. What happened was real, it’s really happening. He won’t wake up because this part isn’t a dream. Luke is gone and with him, his heart, both of which he has no guarantee will return.
He falls to his knees, unable to care about the way tiny rocks stab at him. He’s crying again but he can’t care about that either. All he can do is fall in on himself and crumble.
The air feels stale, so subtly so that Din wonders if he’s imagining it. A gust of cold wind hits the back of his exposed neck and now he knows he’s imagining it. Can one suffocate from such a feeling? He’s not eager to find out but given the crushing weight it has on his chest, he might not have a choice.
The early light of the morning creeps in the room and onto the bed. He stares at it and bitterly realizes that it shines directly on Luke’s side of the bed, as if nature itself is taunting him.
He cried in the clearing for God knows how long, only pulling himself back up when he remembered morning would be soon and he’s without his helmet. He didn’t want to come back to Luke’s room, he didn’t want to come back to the temple at all but Grogu is here. He’d laugh at how Grogu managed to sleep through that entire ordeal but that is the last thing on his mind, so he’s grateful instead, Grogu would’ve only made it messier.
He can hear the padawans start to wake up down the hall and it’s like a punch to the gut. But, it’s also so typical, isn’t it? Of course he can’t mourn by himself, now he has to explain it to a bunch of kids and relive that pain. How’s he going to explain this? Surely he can’t tell them about the mission, it’s too morbid and he doesn’t even understand it himself. And now what will they do? Their teacher is gone, they get the day off but at the worst cost imaginable. Calm down , he scolds himself, the worst cost imaginable is him being dead. He’s not dead.
He ignores the nagging voice in the back of his head that whispers not yet .
A coo comes from the other side of the room. He looks up and sees Grogu watching him curiously but without his usual enthusiasm. Din huffs and tries not to think about how he’s being so obvious even his toddler could see it. He forces himself up, knowing that Grogu will want to get out of the crib and get the day started. He can’t stand that thought now because he knows that once he walks out that door and delivers the news, it’s only going to get worse. He wills away the tears that threaten to form, he’s cried enough as it is.
He tucks Grogu under his arm and slips his helmet over his head once again. Grogu continues to watch him with careful eyes, even letting out questioning noises but Din doesn’t answer or entertain his curiosity. He keeps his eyes looking straight ahead, slipping into that all too familiar mindset, and walks out of the room.
The padawans he passes give him cheerful hellos and good mornings that he’d usually return, but it’s quite the unusual day. The only thing he says is to gather everyone in the common room so he can make an announcement. He ignores the nervous looks that pass over their faces and keeps walking.
It doesn’t take long for everyone to get together, they all showed up rather quickly and Din finds some sort of relief in that. They watch him cautiously and don’t say a word, whether they picked up the tension from something in the force or just the damper mood of the Mandalorian in the room, Din doesn’t know. They sit down on the uncomfortable stone floor and wait for him to speak.
He swallows down the lump in his throat, practically forcing it to sound normal. “Your master is gone. He felt called away on a mission and left hours ago.” Why doesn’t he call him Luke? Honestly, he has no idea. All he knows is that Luke- his name, his memory, his school, his students- it’s all too much. He couldn’t say his name if he tried, it would bring it all back.
“Is he safe?” A small, scared voice pipes up. Guilt tugs on Din’s heart, he shouldn’t have been so blunt, they’re just children, but he can’t bring himself to stop.
“I don’t know.”
There’s a pregnant pause that follows. The younglings look from his armored face to one another for reassurance but find none. All except for the oldest, Sella, who stands with her eyes closed in an almost meditative stance. Her eyes snap open with relief.
“He’s alive,” she announces, pulling one of the near-crying younglings to her side. “I felt it in the force.” She shifts her gaze to Din and it grows to be apologetic. “That’s all I can tell you. I don’t know where he is and I can’t reach out to him. I-I’m not that powerful, I’m sorry.”
Din sighs, he won’t deny that he had a flicker of hope at her words but it’s snuffed out when he remembers that his living status could change at any time. Still, he nods and mutters a “thank you,” but he’s not sure she heard it.
“What do we do now?” Sella prompts, clearly the one representing the younglings as a whole.
He looks at her then to the small group of children, all watching him with expectant gazes that beg him to say something, anything at all. For a moment, Din feels like he’s been taken back in time to his own days as a foundling. The way he and his peers would watch the Mandalorians, begging them for guidance and reassurance in any way they can deliver it. They all lost so much, their families and friends, and the Mandalorians were all they had left, their only light in all the darkness.
Din shuts his eyes, unable to look at them any longer. He turns around and heads back down the hallway he came through.
“What you normally do.”
Then he’s gone.
His stomach aches with hunger but he can’t bring himself to do anything about it. He had a single ration bar earlier that morning so it’s certain he wouldn’t starve to death, therefore, in his mind, it’s fine. It’s been a full day since Luke left, his second night sitting alone in the dark and letting his mind spiral out of control. One of the younglings took it upon themselves to take Grogu and let him sleep in their room. Din doesn’t pay it any mind, he doesn’t give anything other than his own crushing despair his attention.
With much remorse, he hasn’t been good to the children either.
Its been four hours since their gathering in the common room and since then he’s gotten four children at the door asking for his assistance.
“Mr. Mandalorian,” one children squeaks out. It doesn’t roll off their tongue as easily as “Mando” does but Din imagines they’re too scared to approach him with such a casual name now. “We- We don’t know what to do… Master Skywalker makes the plan for the day.”
Din grunts in irritation, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. “Then take the day off,” he grumbles out. There’s a sharp gasp on the other side of the door, followed by some stuttering and eventual footsteps indicating that they’ve left now. He sighs and turns over in the bed.
He’s still in Luke’s room. After everything that’s happened he can’t bring himself to leave it. Anything reminiscent of his lover exists in this small space and he lets himself selfishly soak it up even if he’s mad and scared for the Jedi. That, and he can’t ask the youngling currently occupying his old room to leave now.
He finally leaves the room again the next morning. At some point in the night he passed out from sheer misery and woke up with terrible complaint from his stomach. The thought of eating makes him feel sick but the pain is all too troublesome. He finds himself walking to the kitchen without realizing it and ultimately decides it’s good his instincts will force him to find food because he certainly wasn’t going to do it.
Of course there are younglings in there, enjoying their breakfast, or, at least trying to. They weren’t talking but Din still feels like his presence demands silence, it always does. He makes long strides to one of the cabinets where he knows some measly ration bars are kept. They’re the only thing he imagines stomaching and even those are on thin ice.
“He’s still alive,” Sella’s voice pipes up. Din didn’t even notice she was there. He hums in acknowledgement, wrapping his fingers around the familiar plastic packaging and turning back around. He’s almost out the room and he hears her call out again. “What do you expect us to do, Mando? We have no master right now.”
He doesn’t respond again, he doesn’t even stop walking. He leaves her without an answer and can’t find it in himself to feel much about that at all.
He’s sitting on the floor now, mostly because being in bed has started to trick his mind into thinking Luke’s warmth will be next to him and it never is. He feels long past crying now, with barely any water in his system he doesn’t think he could manage another tear. His head still hurts though, his voice is still hoarse and his nose is so stuffed he’s forced to breathe from his mouth. It’s a miserable affair but it’s one he believes he deserves now.
Sure, he’s somewhere between furious and devastated but half of that blame he’s putting on his own shoulders. The memory of the night plays over and over again on repeat in his mind like a broken record. He can’t stop himself from pondering the “what-if’s” and feeling only worse at how hopeless every outcome seems to be. If there’s anything worse than a preventable situation, it’s not being able to stop it at all no matter what.
Above all, he feels like he’s broken his promises. The ones he made to Leia and Han, to himself and to Luke in the dead of night when nobody could possibly hear. His nightmare rings clear in his head, the chanting from which has also been a constant in his mind. He was supposed to take care of him, does that not mean protect him? How can he protect him if he’s out there, risking life and limb with no guarantee for his safety and Din is here, unable to leave a school of scared children behind. He doesn’t even know where Luke has gone so he couldn’t possibly catch up, by the time he’d get word a Jedi was around, the man would already be back at the temple… or worse.
The sharp jiggle of a handle rings out through the empty room, it makes Din jump and instinctively reach for his blaster. His thumb rests on the trigger but his stance relaxes considerably, it has to just be a student, if it was an intruder then they’d be able to handle themselves long enough to alert him. Another rattle and Din realizes he never locked the door, he just trusted that the kids would respect his privacy. He’s gotta hand it to this kid, they have quite the nerve to disturb his “peace” like this, no other youngling dared to do more than knock but whoever this is seems rather comfortable barging in.
He sucks in a breath at his own realization. There’s only one student in this whole school that would dare bother the brooding Mandalorian, that student is-
The door swings open with a considerable amount of force. Grogu is standing behind it with a raised hand, clearly using the force to his will. His eyes immediately lock on Din’s sitting figure, his gaze is stern but he can’t hide his concern no matter how hard he tries. His helmet is on but they still find themselves in a stare-down, the child holds his position so intently Din wonders if he can actually see through his armor.
Grogu moves first. The door gently shuts behind him, another subtle use of his abilities, and he starts moving forward in an almost intimidating manner. With a sigh, Din brings his hands up to remove his helmet, figuring that, at most, his son deserves to see his face. He can’t excuse the way he’s ignored him, even if it wasn’t intentional by any means, and he mentally scolds himself for not planning on reconciliation any time soon. But, to be fair, he wasn’t planning on doing much but this whole “sitting-on-the-floor-miserable” thing for a while.
When his covering comes off, Grogu’s determined, though a bit shaky, footsteps come to a stop in shock. He can only imagine what he looks like now. Crying for two days straight with little to no sleep or managing to care for himself in any way… He’s gotta look rough, he didn’t need his son’s almost frightened expression to tell him that.
It’s only for a moment, then the boy is back to his mission with a terrible confusion written all over his face. Eventually, he’s at his father’s side with his little arm raised, slowly leaning forward and indicating that he was going to touch him. Part of Din wants to tell him no or push him away but he could never do that. He could only imagine how damaging that would be for a child, for their parent to completely shut down only to snap at you the next time they show any emotion. He’s spiraling out of control but in the odd moments of clarity, all he can express about the boy is his unwavering love.
That tiny, clawed hand rests on his naked hand in an almost underwhelming fashion. The warmth of it is comforting but leaves something to be desired in how dramatic it all feels. But that’s only for a minute, because in the next, Grogu’s wide eyes fill with tears that quickly become too much to fit on the rims, they spill over. A hiccup escapes his mouth, followed by a wail and it makes Din finally move.
Like a rubber band had snapped, Din scoops the sobbing child up and into his arms. Though it felt impossible moments ago, he heaves himself up into a standing position and falls into a bouncing rhythm in hopes to soothe his son. He brings Grogu’s head up to his shoulder where the toddler immediately rests it, his green fists balled into the soft fabric of his cape. His cries have yet to quiet down and those tears keep coming, soaking Din’s entire shoulder.
“Shh,” he coos, voice rough from his lack of use. “Don’t cry, ad’ika .”
Of course, he still cries, but slowly it starts to feel less like a response to feeling his father’s storm of emotions in a single moment and more like his own sadness. More like he’s letting out the frustration and fear built up in the past two days from losing his master and seemingly not having his buir at all.
“I’m sorry,” he blurts out, surprising himself. “I’m so sorry. I- ...I should’ve been there for you.”
Just him? A voice that sounds suspiciously like the Jedi who started all this. Regardless, he realizes with a jolt of guilt that the voice is right. There’s a whole school of children out there that lost the much needed guidance of their master without so much as a parting word. He sighs with bitter disappointment towards himself, I should’ve done better.
After a few more minutes of a combination of rocking and bouncing, Grogu lets out a quiet snore and Din knows he’s fallen asleep. He brings his movements to a stop at a slow, slow pace, making sure they’re as gradual as possible. He makes small strides to the bed and wonders if Grogu will appreciate being in Din’s bed rather than his own. He slips his hand that rests on the toddler’s back up to the back of his head and neck, gently lowering him from his chest to Luke’s side of the bed closest to the wall. Thankfully, the kid’s a heavy sleeper because he doesn’t stir or make any noise other than the air quietly passing through his mouth.
Once he’s laid down, Din steps away to take his armor off. He’s not sure why he wore it, with no plans to go out and interact with anyone or be seen at all, it doesn’t make sense. He can’t explain it much himself, just that the familiar weight of it was something he felt he needed to keep him grounded. He feels a sort of anxiety when he takes it off, exposing himself in more ways than one, but he figures that’s expected. He’ll wear it again tomorrow and every day after that but, for now, he wants to lay beside his son and watch over him.
He won’t be sleeping, that much is obvious in his head. He’s got lots of stuff to do, things he should’ve been doing since yesterday, but he’s got to plan a bit. He slips into the bed with unpracticed ease, slipping under the thin covers, and begins another long, long night.
The plan is like this; while using the force is essential to their path as a Jedi, nobody can deny that it’s only a piece of it. After all, the Jedi’s had been knights as well, that alone implies that there’s more to the profession. It’s not easy deciding how to continue their training, there’s this terrible responsibility he’s putting on himself to do it right. Though he’s lived on this planet for a while and observed the classes from afar, he never understood. He’s kicking himself now for not asking questions but, at the very least, he still has a school full of children who should be able to point him in the right direction.
Self defense is the first thing he can come up with. In his opinion, self defense is a skill everyone should know regardless of what they’re training for. He had learned the basics of it relatively young, not on his birth planet though he can recall something similar for older children, in case of an emergency. It should be easy to teach them, they’re sharp with good instincts, he’s seen it himself, and always eager to learn.
Meditation is next on his mind. He’s never meditated before, once again, it’s only something he’s observed in passing. He’s never asked about it either but while he was watching a lesson, he overheard Luke explain the importance of it (probably because no child wants to sit still with their eyes closed for nearly an hour). He droned on about the importance of focusing their connection to the force, how meditation is a good way for them to be more attuned with themselves as well. He doesn’t know what those things exactly mean but it seems to be a simple enough activity with great benefit. What’s even better is that he doesn’t need to understand it, simply instructing them to do it should be enough.
The last thing he can think of is intuition. Finally, one he can understand and easily see the importance of, especially for the Jedi. If the “battle” with the dark troopers was anything to go off of, Luke has incredible instincts and doesn’t rely on precalculated decisions to get him through the end of a fight. This one is tricky, how can you sharpen one’s intuition? In his experience, that comes with time and experience, but he’d be lying if he said that wasn’t its own form of training. He can’t make them powerful Jedi’s like Luke, but not encouraging the process will rid them of that chance all together. In the end, he decides a daily walk, not unlike the ones he took during the previous week with the foundlings, should be enough. If he can ask them to point out simple things to look out for (such as the sound of an animal in the area, how far they might be and perhaps how big) then that should be enough. Even if they don’t get much out of it, getting out of the temple is always good for them.
Grogu shifts in his sleep, pulling Din’s attention away from his own thoughts. He doesn’t wake up, but it makes him painfully aware of how tired he is himself. It won’t be long before morning, he can already see the very tip of the sun creep up on the horizon, slowly but surely making its presence known. His eyelids feel terribly heavy now and he’s not sure they’ll stay open much longer, but, now that he’s got a plan (however flimsy it may be) he feels content at the idea of sleep overtaking him.
He looks out the window for a last glance and catches an eyeful of stars. They twinkle slowly, almost like they’re showing off their own beauty for all to see. He frowns a bit, feeling unusually more bitter towards them than usual. When his eyes threaten to shut, he doesn’t fight it. Before he succumbs to exhaustion, he can only think of the way those same stars reflected in Luke’s gorgeous blue eyes.
Walking down the stone hallways of the temple has never felt so foreign- even when he was just moving in. Maybe it’s the absence of Luke and all the brightness that comes with him, that’s how the room has felt the entire time he was hiding away. But, along with the missing master, there’s missing optimism radiating off the children who are, once again, gathered in the common room.
They’re tense but not so wide-eyed and afraid like before when the news had just been broken. But, when they turn to look at him, Din is taken aback by how worried they become. Stress seems to overcome them in waves, their eyebrows crease and their lips curl into thin lines like they’re trying to contain themselves. A stab of guilt finds its way in his gut, realizing what a number his breakdown had done on not only himself but the children around him. Now they don’t know what he’ll do, he’s been so unpredictable lately and Din hates it. He hates the mistrust he’s accidentally planted in these younglings, something no child should have to feel for their caretaker. After all, that’s what he is now, isn’t it? Their sole caretaker.
He takes a stand in the middle of the room, the only clear spot in the room. They’re sitting closer to the walls, probably using them for back support on the terrible stools Luke had found years ago. He clears his throat when he meets the eyes of one of the students, Sella (coincidentally enough) and embarrassment itches at his skin.
Her once stern eyes grow soft and clouded with what looks like sympathy. She closes them for a moment, a tense one that makes Din’s chest grow tight, then opens them with the same lack of urgency, “he’s alive.”
Din lets out a quiet sigh of relief, nothing anyone would hear, and forces himself to stand up straighter. “It’s time to resume your training,” he finally announces. “I’m no Jedi, but I can teach you other skills, some Luke would even insist on teaching.” He pauses to take a glance around the room, searching for reactions. Thankfully, they all seem to be positive. There’s excitement in most of their eyes, wide smiles breaking across their face that almost make him smile as well. The others seem to be at ease, the worry in their faces now gone, not necessarily thrilled at the news but he’ll settle for their content expressions. “We’ll start today. Get dressed, we’re going on a hike.”
The younglings scramble to get up and rush to their rooms, loudly chattering as they go. The familiar sound of joyous children ringing through the hallways again let’s Din relax, he releases his tight posture into a much easier one. He turns around, intending to head out into the clearing but almost runs straight into Sella who hasn’t left the room. Forcing himself calm, he looks her straight in the eyes, wondering what she’s still around for.
She watches him with a focused stare, trying to read him through the thick armor that rests on his head. After another moment of this, a fond smile finds itself on her lips. “Good to have you back,” she quietly declares, and heads down the hallway with her peers.
Din watches her go, taking in a breath he didn’t know he needed. He’s gotta hand it to Luke, they’ve been taught well, it was almost as if the Jedi master himself was reflected in her eyes- but his heart aches, he decides not to think about Luke. A clawed hand tugs at his pants followed by a well-natured coo. He leans down and picks Grogu up, instinctively cradling him in his right elbow, suddenly realizing how much he missed his son’s warmth in the past two days. With one last loving glance to the toddler, he sets off outside.
Truth be told, taking the foundlings out for visiting week wasn’t easy. They’re good kids, there’s no doubt there, but they’re still kids, not to mention kids of various ages. Some wondered off or fell behind on their outings but nothing catastrophic thank goodness. So it could be seen as a mild challenge, one he was happy to take on and eventually overcome. All that to say, taking on the whole other half of the school is quickly becoming a huge challenge.
Despite the fact that he has more of the older kids this time around, the younger ones easily outweigh them and not just in numbers but rather personalities. It’s safe to say the orphans were more quiet and reserved, Din imagines it’s from their traumatic pasts or lack of support system they had before joining the school. They’re bright and full of character but easily take to being in the background, more introverted than the rest, something Din easily understands as a foundling himself. The other half are… not like that. They’re a louder group, equally full of personality but bursting at the seams with it, like if they don’t express themselves they might faint. It’s not bad, actually, it’s relieving to see them the same as they always were in the wake of a tough situation, it’s just a lot to handle.
They’re heading into the clearing, concluding their hike and they’ve lost four different kids a total of six times. It seems that curiosity is going to be Din’s biggest enemy on this journey, the urge possibly stronger than the force itself. He wonders if the ancient Jedi had taught full sizes like this or if they took on one or two padawans at a time. Probably the latter, or at least passing them off to multiple teachers. How does Luke do this all day?
“Mando?” A small hand tugs on the edge of his cape.
Cringing at the thought of losing another kid, Din clenches his teeth and grits out, “did we lose another one?”
The youngling shakes their head, “I think I hear something in the bushes.”
Ah, finally, a chance to teach observation skills just as he planned. It’s always been crucial in his past (and now as well) to be able to predict what will happen in his given surroundings. Most of that comes with experience but there’s a lot one can understand from the sound of rustling in the bushes, for example, its size is incredibly important to note in case it becomes a threat.
He crouches down to the child’s level, almost disrupting a sleeping Grogu in the process. “Okay, can you tell me how big you think it is?” He takes note himself that the creature is not all that big or much of a threat already.
They watch the bushes for a few moments, narrowing their eyes as if trying to see through it. They turn back to Din for a moment, brief confusion clouding their features. “Can I use the force?”
He nods, “if you can.”
With a determined nod, they turn back to the bushes and watch with a much more confident fashion. After a few moments, they whisper, “it’s little… Just an animal.”
Right on cue, a frog hops out from the crisp green leaves. The youngling flinches in surprise but giggles in pure joy of seeing the creature. They give it a little wave and hop off to join the school that continues their walk behind them.
Din, on the other hand, can’t tear his eyes away from the amphibian before him. They have wide, knowing eyes that he recognizes in a second. This frog had been there the day he gave Luke his name. The only other creature who had been present in such a vulnerable, special moment. True, they had hopped away before then but the way these big, black eyes seem to bore right into his soul tell a different story. They’re sympathetic in a way, or maybe he’s just imagining that to make himself feel better, he wouldn’t know. Still, he’s frozen on the spot, never wishing animals could speak more than in this moment.
Eventually, the frog takes its leave and heads into another bush across the trail. Din watches it go, almost longing to follow for a reason he’s not even aware of, but he doesn’t. When the amphibian is out of sight, he stands up and realizes the children left without him, most likely back home at this point. He gives a final glance to the bush, staring as long as he can without blinking and when he does, he recoils in shock. He’s crying. Thin, small tears but tears nonetheless. He’s cried a lot recently, but he was very aware of it then, this was involuntary.
He lets out a broken sniffle and forces Luke out of his mind. He can’t do this, not now, not when he’s finally on his feet again. He takes a stubborn step (though it’s more of a stomp) towards the temple, refusing to give this more thought than he already has. He ignores the little voice in his head that whispers, too late.
Meditation should be easy, and in a lot of ways it is, but for the undisciplined mind, it’s almost frustrating. Of course, Din has this mind and wants to kick himself for never joining in on these sessions before. Though the kids are encouraged to meditate as often as they can, it’s a big part of their schedule to do it together as a whole school. Luke had once expressed that he believes it to be very important that they can rely on each other like a family and that sharing these moments- being in each other’s presence with such vulnerability- could potentially strengthen that bond. That’s all well and good, but how do they stop their minds from wandering? Thankfully he’s wearing his helmet, his facial expressions would be distracting otherwise.
Well, even that’s not even proving to be true. When his eyes snap open for the millionth time, he sees almost all the children staring straight at him with concerned faces. He sighs, of course his first experience had to be with empathetic wizard children. He feels almost sheepish, knowing that his own discomfort is disrupting their time as well.
Myn, one of the youngest children in the school, hesitantly holds his hand out as if he’s trying to grab Din’s attention. “Mando,” he calls out quietly, “i-if it helps, there’s this trick I know…”
Now, Din knows it probably won’t. In all honesty, he gave up on taking anything away from his experience about ten minutes ago when the faintest shuffle pulled him from his thoughts entirely. But, he could never tell this kid no, or any of them for that matter, regardless of what he thinks. So he nods his head, keeping quiet though he knows all eyes are on him now.
“I… I like to imagine a happy place… L-like my parents' home, I’d like to be there all the time, I think.”
A happy place. In all honesty, he couldn’t imagine such a place. Any happy place he could conjure up in his mind is laced with tragedy, trauma and the looming threat of being ripped away at any time. Maybe that’s dramatic of him, but he’s fallen victim to losing what feels like everything too many times now.
“Thank you,” he whispers sincerely, relishing in the way the child brightens up. “Where’d you learn that from?”
“Oh!” Myn fiddles with his fingers for a few moments, “Master Luke… He’s very smart.”
“He taught me a good trick too,” another child pipes up, “to not have expectations, just let my mind wander.”
He opens his mouth to reply but gets cut off by another student.
“He told me to be patient with myself.”
Some nod in unison, hearing that advice before but coming to understand how helpful it truly is in the long run. A few more tips get passed around at that time, different pieces of advice handed down to each individual student. It sounds like it’s rather personalized advice too, suited to meet their needs on a personal level even if a bit vague enough to be given to anyone. They smile at the memories but Din can see the hint of gloom and worry that hides behind them, it’s damn near impossible to hide.
“He’s taught you a lot, hasn’t he?” He slowly questions, not sure why he’s asking it.
Without hesitation, they nod in agreement. One of the older students quietly whispers, “he’s the greatest man I know.” And Din, though it pains him to think about it, has to agree. He’s always known that.
The room quiets down, a much more relaxed atmosphere settling over them. “Thank you,” he tells them, quietly as not to disturb the ones who have already slipped back into their meditative states. A few turn to him and nod with soft expressions on their faces.
He falls back into a semi-strict posture, giving the impression that he’s following their lead, but he’s not. However, he feels more relaxed than he has in days, the comforting knowledge that the kids, though missing their master terribly, are doing okay, just as strong as ever. He watches them with a careful gaze, knowing that he won’t be meditating but watching over them will be enough.
It’s been a week and two days since Luke left. It’s not surprising to learn that being the sole teacher to a group of sixteen kids is a hard task, but he definitely hasn’t given his lover enough credit. Once again, they’re not bad kids, not by a long shot, but it’s hard not to become worn down by their needs and how much attention needs to be paid to them individually. How Luke had done this for years completely by himself is incredible.
When the sunlight reaches his closed eyes, practically forcing him awake, Din feels like pure shit. He hasn’t had a moment to breathe in the past week, just being thrown problem after challenge after inconvenience after complication- all with little breaks in between. His only time alone is when he goes to sleep and even then he tends to stay awake coming up with solutions or new strategies to make the days go by easier. By the time he finally falls asleep, he only has an hour or two before it’s time to take them out for a hike or group meditation or some self defense class. That’s not even to say those lessons take place in the early morning, he just falls asleep that late.
Last night was one of those nights and he’s sorely regretting it now. Grogu is, thankfully, still snoring away in the crib when he opens his eyes. That’s a rarity nowadays, usually Grogu is the one waking him up in the first place. He forces himself up, knowing that the younglings will be up at this point and need to know the plan for the day. Not that he knows that himself, he can barely get the room to stop spinning, but he’s sure to remember it when he gets there. Either that or he’ll make something up.
He shoves his helmet on unceremoniously and stumbles out the bedroom door, fighting to keep his eyes open. To an outsider, he must look horrible, down right intoxicated but if they could see his face they’d realize just how sleep deprived he is. The students watch as he stumbles down the hall, shuffling his feet along and occasionally bumping into the wall- even leaning on it for a moment or two before continuing his painful journey to the kitchen.
When he gets to the kitchen, Sella is pouring a cup of milk in two glasses for Silas and Kit. She glances up at him with a smile but it’s quickly replaced with a look of pure concern. Her eyebrows furrow as he practically collapses into one of the chairs surrounding the table. Topping off the last glass, she puts the milk back in the fridge and cautiously approaches the barely conscious Mandalorian.
“He’s alive,” she carefully announces, having checked a few moments earlier.
Din grunts, not much of a response but any indication that he’s listening has to be good, right? Slowly, he leans forward, crossing his arms on the table and falling into them like they’re a pillow. The helmet can’t be comfortable by any means but he doesn’t move, not even to situate himself. He fights to keep his eyes open without realizing that they’ve closed long ago, he’s already lost that battle. Eventually, he stops struggling, too overtaken by exhaustion, and slips into a heavy sleep.
Sella watches him in pure confusion and great concern until a garbled snore comes through the helmet’s voice modulator. She looks like she’s resisting the urge to laugh out loud at that, probably not used to hearing anything come out of Din’s mouth at all, much less a sleepy snore. Silas and Kit walk up from behind her, watching their caretaker with amused eyes, finding it all rather ironic that the strongest man in the temple can’t win against sleep.
Sella huffs out a chuckle and heads into the common room, picking up the cleanest looking blanket then heads back into the kitchen. Using the force as to be careful not to wake him up, she drapes it across his shoulders and covers his back, pooling at the edges because of its big size. Din doesn’t react, only letting out another sleepy noise that makes her and the twins quietly giggle.
With that done, she ushers the kids out of the room. As they tiptoe their way back to the common area, content to finish their drinks there, Sella turns back and watches the armored man for a moment. When all he does is snore once again, she snorts and decides he’ll be okay.
“Thank you, Mando,” she whispers, and heads off with her peers.
He slept for what he was told was thirteen hours. He felt insanely guilty when he found out but, luckily, the older padawans reassured him that they got along fine. They did their usual group meditation and even a short walk to a nearby pond for some fresh air. The story made Din realize two things.
The first of those things being that he’s been relying on himself far too much. Yes, he is their only caretaker, but many of these children not only have the capability to help but are taught to do so. They can’t be teachers but they can be assistants, keeping an eye on those who wander and gently direct them back when needed. By the look on their faces, they long to help Din, sympathetic to his situation and knowing they can do more if he’d let them. So, in that moment, he decides that he will, maybe then he’ll rest more.
The second thing he realizes is that he has the school’s full support. Part of what makes the task so daunting is the fear of accidentally messing up their training, damning them and their path entirely. And, yes, that is quite dramatic, he’s aware of it, but he can’t shake it from his head. What he didn’t realize until now is that they know very well what they need to do and how to do it- not nearly enough to teach each other but enough to hold together until their master returns. They never needed Din to resume their training, they would’ve eventually done it themselves if he never came to, but they trust him so fully. They wanted his guidance instead of requiring it. So even when he stumbles, they’ll patiently wait for him to get back up.
That was a week ago. Since then, he’s sat the oldest padawans- Sella (who is seventeen), Nej (who is sixteen) and La’vena (who is also sixteen)- and they make a plan. Sella is unofficially his right-hand man, being the one of the padawans with the most training (Grogu is actually the most experienced, just far too young) and the only one who can feel Luke’s presence in the force. He takes her suggestions and opinions the most seriously. She’s helped him plan out lessons and how to convey the teachings to the younglings.
Nej and La’vena are in charge of the younglings themselves. Basic things like getting to bed on time, making sure they eat their meals before heading out, stopping them from wandering off by themselves. Obviously, Din will deal with the bigger issues like injuries or illness, making sure they have enough water to drink and supplying snacks during the day, but those basic tasks being handled has taken a huge load off of him. They’re happy to do it too, even offering it before he had a plan in mind.
So, needless to say, things have been going smoother. He finally feels like he’s found his footing in all this Jedi stuff.
He’s laying down for bed now, finally finding a consistent schedule that doesn’t include hours of staring at the ceiling worried out of his mind. Grogu has been put to sleep, seemingly less difficult now that Din is back to his normal self. He’s incredibly thankful for that, a fussy toddler would’ve been the icing on the cake a week ago.
Just as he closes his eyes, a terrible wail breaks the paper thin silence surrounding the temple. He shoots out of bed, carelessly throwing his helmet back on and letting his instincts kick in to drive his actions. He’s out the door when he hears a sob come from the room on the right at the end of the hallway. There’s already two kids peering into the opened door, their concerned faces telling Din that there’s no immediate threat but something is certainly wrong. When they see him coming, they shuffle away and give him a clear path in.
Once inside, he sees one of the kids, Brax, desperately trying to comfort his roommate, Tonis. Tonis is crying, huge sobs wracking his body with tears that roll down his cheeks to his neck and soaking his shirt. They pull at their hair desperately, shaking their head back and forth like they’re arguing with themselves in their own head. It makes Din feel nauseous knowing how much pain they must be in.
“What happened?” He questions them.
Brax answers, “they had a nightmare.” He’s rubbing his hands up and down Tonis’ skinny arms to no avail.
“Has this happened before?” Din takes a slow step forward, trying not to startle the poor kid.
Brax sighs, “they were frequent a long time ago. Master Luke… he helped a lot. We thought they were completely gone but…”
Din bites his lip, wishing they could have a non-Luke related incident, but he digresses. Hesitantly, he puts his naked hand on Tonis’ clothed knee, temporarily startling them enough to stop crying. They look up at him, no doubt he’s just a blurry vision in the poor child’s eye but it’s a start.
“Tonis,” he whispers, hoping to keep their attention. To be honest, he’s not entirely sure what he’s doing. He has plenty of nightmares himself but he’s always been left to deal with those by himself, he has no idea how to help another person with them, much less a child. But, if there’s one thing he knows, it’s that kids thrive on physical affection. He slowly opens his arms, indicating a hug of some sorts, and the youngling launches themselves into it. He curls in around them, a tight but not suffocating hold that he hopes conveys the comfort they need.
“You’re safe,” he whispers, quietly cursing his helmet for making his voice more intimidating than it is, but Tonis doesn’t seem to notice.
They whisper something, far too low and garbled for Din to understand. “Can you say that again?” He gently prompts.
Tonis pulls back to look him in his covered eyes, his lips curled up in an ugly, devastated frown. “What if he doesn’t come back?!” They wail, louder than any other cry they’ve let out so far. Din tenses, Brax tenses from the other side of the room, the padawans watching from the door tense as well. Tonis throws themselves back into Din’s hold, hiding their face in his chest and continues to cry.
He’s speechless for a few minutes. He hasn’t even decided what he’ll do if Luke doesn’t come back, opting to ignore the topic all together. Of course, he knew the students would have the same concerns, but there was this unspoken agreement not to talk about it, to go on as if he never left. Well, now that agreement is broken, and Din feels stupid for never thinking about it.
“We’ll be here,” he eventually decides to say. It’s true, if Luke doesn’t make it, never comes back and these children are without a teacher, he’ll stay. Some kids will go home but their bonds can never be broken and those that have no homes will remain with him. He’ll stay forever if he has to. “We’ll always be here.”
He doesn’t know how long they stay wrapped up in each other’s hold, only knowing that it was long enough for them to stop crying and eventually fall back asleep. He gently unwraps their thin arms from his frame and lays them back in their bed, carefully pulling their covers over them. Brax, who has since laid down and tried sleeping himself, looks up and gives him an appreciative smile. Din nods in return, wishing they could see his own smile.
When he leaves the room, he means to go back to bed and catch up on the sleep he’s losing, but he hesitates. His mind hasn’t stopped running since that terrible cry left Tonis’ lips, the crushing hypotheticals that play in his head are too much for him to just shoo away. Instead, he turns the other way and walks outside into the clearing, only stopping when he finds himself before the spot where the X-Wing once was.
Oh, it’s all so familiar isn’t it?
He looks to the night sky, to the stars that he once flew through so well, now strangers to him. Before, the stars were mocking him. They were reminders that he was alone, then a symbol of how he couldn’t escape- his past, his son’s past, nothing. Twinkling, beautiful lights that whisper “ you’ll never find your way out ,” because space is like a maze and he’s one of many trapped in it. They mocked him when he was settling into Yavin, asking why he wouldn’t join them, would he ever set foot in their domain again? They laughed in his face when the x-wing flew away into the inky abyss. A teasing voice tickles his ears, asking if he’s scared, could he handle losing his lover? What if he didn’t return?
But Luke... he trusted those stars with everything in him.
He can see it now. Nineteen-year-old Luke Skywalker letting himself take in an extra moment of the night before the desert became too dangerous to be alone in. Those blue eyes watching the stars, stars that never mocked but always gave him hope. Stars that promised one day he’d leave, one day they’d guide him wherever he may go.
Maybe the stars give Luke motivation to do what nobody else will. What Din never wants him to do.
Din doesn’t trust the stars, they’ve done nothing but be useless lights in the sky. But, Luke... Luke will never be like that, he’ll always believe in them, he knows they’ll see to it that he gets home safely.
So, for the first time in his life, Din turns to the stars and watches them, really watching them. He slips his helmet off, determined to do this right, and takes a deep breath.
“Please,” he prays to them, “please bring him home to me.” A beat of silence. “He means more to me than you’ll ever know.”
Its been two days since that night and things are just as well as they can be. Unfortunately, the nightmares have yet to stop and seem to become worse as the days pass. They’re coming up on their third week without Luke. It has been hard to ignore how long he’s been gone and how there’s no sign of his return. Sella’s reassurances that he’s alive can only do so much, she can’t tell them if he’s in good health or terribly injured in need of a rescue. Still, they force themselves to press on.
It’s a rather uneventful morning. They’ve pushed any planned lesson to further in the day after lunch in favor of sleeping in later. It’s a decision he’s more than happy to have made, feeling wonderfully refreshed and ready to tackle today’s lesson of self defense. Grogu isn’t in the crib, probably somewhere outside with one of the students so he strolls out of the room, filled with confidence and a good mood.
That is, until he hears the quiet sobs of not one but two children coming from the common room.
He picks up the pace, jogging rather than strolling, and comes up on quite the scene. The usually put together common room is torn apart; the rug is rolled up in a funny way, the stools are turned on their sides and even piled on top of each other, the only couch they have has its cushions ripped out and tossed carelessly to the side and the blankets are strewn across the room, one is even caught on a lantern hanging in the center of the ceiling. In the middle of the room is Silas and Kit, both looking terribly distraught though Silas is the only one crying. Nej is there too, trying his hardest to comfort them but even he looks disheartened.
“What happened?” Din asks, carefully stepping over the discarded objects on the floor.
Nej looks up at him and sighs, “they lost their pet.”
Din blinks, half expecting something worse. “The salamander?”
Kit nods their head while Silas sobs out, “he’s gone!”
He cringes, having half a hunch how the amphibian escaped in the first place but knowing it’s better to ask. And, of course, he’s right.
“W-we let him out of h-his jar an’... an’ put him on Kit’s shoulder! Then he r-ran away!”
Yup, just as he suspected. He remembers when they announced how well trained their pet had become so he wouldn’t need the jar and believing it to be a bad idea, that it won’t take long for the creature to book it. Just… Why did it have to happen today ?
He takes a deep breath, knowing that this is certain to be one of their more… dramatic dilemmas. Kneeling down to their level, he gives them his most reassuring voice and prays whatever he’s about to tell them will bring some sort of comfort.
“Well… Sometimes these things happen… Sometimes we need to accept that things have to change.”
Surprisingly enough, Kit is the one who speaks this time. “Were we not good owners?”
“No,” Nej cuts in to quickly reassure them. “Not at all. You gave him lots of love and attention, you’re the greatest owners a pet could ask for.”
Silas whimpers, “then why’d he leave us?”
Din mulls it over in his head for a moment, not entirely sure how to answer. Can kids understand that sometimes animals are just like that? That they have an order of doing things that they must adhere to? Thankfully, Nej responds again, taking that burden from Din.
“Your pet… The thing is that he has a certain way of living. There’s things he needs to do that we can’t understand, but he’s bound to them.” Sort of like a creed , Din thinks. “Just like the Jedi. We’ll have many responsibilities then, some other people won’t and probably can’t understand but we’ll do them anyway… And, your pet… Well, if you love him, you have to let him go. Maybe he’ll come back, but even if he doesn’t, you did the right thing.” He pauses, watching the twins and waiting for their reaction. “Does… Does that make you feel better?”
Silas sniffles and stubbornly looks to the ground. “No,” they grumble out, then their features soften into a sort of disappointed content look, “but I understand.”
Nej smiles in relief. He reaches over to ruffle the child’s hair in a good-natured away. “How about you guys go get dressed? I’ll get you guys a little treat when you come back.”
They perk up ever so slightly at his words, just enough to let Din know that they’ll be okay. They get up on their feet and shuffle down the hall, far from lively but that will all come with time. Once they’re out of sight, Din turns to Nej who has started picking the room up.
“You did good with them,” he comments, genuinely impressed.
“Oh, thank you,” the student gives him a shy smile, “I was worried they weren’t going to understand.”
Din shakes his head, “I think they got it. Thank you for helping them.”
The boy just smiles again and nods his head, then he goes back to cleaning.
Din would help but he’s got his own chores to do, such as filling containers with water for their outing. He feels funny though, like something very powerful had just been said, he just hasn’t processed it yet. He decides he must be terribly impressed by the student’s words, nothing more than that. Shrugging it off, he goes back to the task at hand.
He doesn’t think about what Nej had said until that night in bed. While sleep has always been an issue for him, this is a whole new torture. He’s been unable to drift off for hours now, whenever he gets close his eyes snap open like he’s subconsciously on the brink of some great realization. The problem is that he can’t figure out what that is for the life of him.
His mind keeps going back to that scene this morning, the way Nej’s words had brought a sort of understanding Din couldn’t hope to have done himself. Actually, the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes there was wisdom in the youngling’s words, a kind that transcends mere run-away salamanders. There are many cultures and positions in this universe that many, including himself, couldn’t hope to understand, and he’s been in both positions.
It’s hard to understand the way of the Mandalorians, he can’t blame anyone for not being knowledgeable on the subject or accidentally being ignorant to it as well- though, there are a fair share of people who are intentionally ignorant about it. He has a certain way of living, one he chose and accepted the responsibility of doing so.
On the other side of that coin, he doesn’t understand the Jedi. He doesn’t understand their abilities, why they can do the things that they do, or why they take on the burden of being guardians to the whole galaxy. He can’t understand why attachments used to be forbidden, the Mandalorians believed in the exact opposite of that and that makes sense to him. When Luke had left, he claimed that this was a responsibility he was well aware of and freely accepted. Even now, he can’t possibly understand that and he curses it, that exact mentality is what stripped the man from his hands.
Well, if you love him, you have to let him go. Maybe he’ll come back…
Din’s eyes snap open again but finally, finally , he knows why. No, he doesn’t understand why Luke left, why he chose that responsibility, but… but he never trusted Luke. It hits him like a ton of bricks, he hadn’t trusted Luke this entire time, too caught up in the fear that he might never come back to realize that the problem had been just that the whole time, not Luke leaving. Even if he does come home, Luke will never be free of that burden, there’s always the chance he’ll have to leave again and the cycle will continue. But, the Jedi is more than capable of taking care of himself, Din even said so himself weeks ago when he offered to spar.
The realization causes him to shoot up in his bed, his body breaking into a sweat with shock. How could he have been so blind to it up till now. Of course he’s scared, he’ll probably always be scared of this, yet his lack of trust is what made the situation damn near unbearable in the first place.
He turns his head to look out the window. The stars are so obviously twinkling, like they’re demanding Din’s attention, but he looks past them and instead straight at the sky. He knows Luke won’t come through now, that would be all too coincidental and he’s never been that lucky, but he feels like he’s looking straight at his lover.
I’m sorry, cyar'ika , he thinks with great disappointment in himself. I… I trust you, even if I didn’t then, I do now.
Nothing visibly changes, but Din can feel it in his gut.
He rests easier that night.
The salamander returned two days later.
About three weeks and a day in, Din is starting to realize there’s a sort of evil brewing in the school. It follows everyone in it and became impossible to ignore that morning when it practically smacked him right in the face.
Body odor. Child body odor.
He’s actually shocked he didn’t notice it before, but he did wear a helmet so perhaps the smell was kept at bay that way. Actually, it’s more telling that it’s been able to get through the beskar shield, a very disgusting revelation. He doesn’t give it longer than a few minutes to decide that yes, these kids need a bath and it’s happening today.
The temple has showers of sorts but it has limited hot water and there’s at least a dozen kids that need to use it. He makes a mental note to make a shower schedule at the end of this so every student gets their chance over the course of the week, but that doesn’t help now. He looks outside and finds it surprisingly sunny, much nicer weather than it has been lately. Getting an idea, he pulls his glove off and holds it out the window, trying to get a good feel for how warm it is. Luckily, La’vena walks in, one of the only students who actually remembered to bathe.
“Hey,” he calls out, “what would you say the weather is like?” He’d trust himself but his armor makes his opinion pretty unreliable, he’d hate to shove a bunch of kids in a lake when it’s terribly cold.
“I’d say it’s warm! Crazy when we had to cancel a hike a few days ago,” she gives him a curious look, “why?”
Making up his mind, he stands up. “We’re all going down to the lake for a bath. There’s only so much hot water and…” He trails off but she seems to get the message.
“Gotcha. And it’s about time! I can barely breathe in that hallway.”
Din chuckles, “likewise. Can you go gather soaps and towels? Ask someone for help if you need it, I’m gonna round up the kids.”
She nods and heads down another hallway where the bathrooms are. Just as he takes a step to do as he said, there’s a familiar tug on his leg. He looks down at Grogu who, presumably, had been listening to the whole conversation and has a very concerning, mischievous look in his eye. Din internally groans, knowing that Grogu is amongst one of the unbathed children and is famously hard to wash. Not that he hates water, quite the opposite actually, and suddenly Din isn’t so confident in his plan.
All things considered, the students are ready to go pretty quickly. The teenagers of the group look terribly relieved, like they’ve been desperate for this day for quite a while. The kids look like a cross between excited and irritated, oblivious to their own stench and sure to resist at least a little. La’vena, Nej and Sella hold the supplies and stand at the back of the group as to watch the little ones, taking their assigned jobs very seriously. Din decides they’re good to go and leads them out into the thankfully warm air.
By the time they get to the lake, they’re pretty excited as a whole. No-one got lost or hurt on the way there so it’s a definite win and a huge step up from their first trip together. The reminder that just because they’re bathing doesn’t mean they can’t play lifted everyone’s spirits and assured there would be no push back anymore. Once all their supplies are situated on rocks just far enough away from the “splash zone,” he turns to address the children.
“Since we’re all together, you guys can bathe in your underwear. If you don’t want to, there’s a secluded area at the east side of the lake, just be careful. I don’t care what you do but you will get clean, sound good?” They all nod. “Right, now get going.”
They run straight into the water with hoot and hollers, some even finding elevated rocks to jump from. Din watches him go fondly, then a certain coo reminds him of his own, painful task. He picks up a bottle of soap with a sigh, it was going to be a long bath.
“Grogu stop-“ he lightly scolded when the toddler tried to put a rock in his mouth.
“Don’t!” He warned when he tried to put a dollop of soap in his mouth.
“Come back!” He called when Grogu floated off, making his way to the deeper middle of the lake.
Fuck , he thought when he inevitably fell in the lake trying to pull Grogu back to the shore.
“You’re lucky you’re cute,” he mumbled when he finally finished washing the kid.
He walked back onto dry land and positioned himself straight in the sun with the vain hope it’ll dry him off at least a little. From this area, he has a perfect view of the younglings in the lake, splashing each other and throwing a ball they brought back and forth. For once, everyone seems to be happy, nobody is left out or dealing with a terrible grief, something he’s sort of gotten used to.
Oh, Luke, he thinks with ease, I wish you were here to see this .
It’s late into the night now. He’s still glowing from the earlier success of the bath day and even worked out that system of showering he had been thinking about. He’d usually be asleep now but this time he’s awake by choice, though he doesn’t have much of a reason for it. He just feels like he should be, like a greater force- dare he say the force itself, that or the stars, though he wonders if they’re one in the same- is telling him to stay awake. Regardless if that is true or not, it’s a nice night.
The rarity that was the nice weather has long since gone, effectively throwing them into the autumn they had been anticipating and sending a chill up Din’s spine but in a nice way. He can’t see much outside the window, the moonlight is strong but it can only illuminate so much, he can’t tell if the leaves have turned red like he’d been told and didn’t bother to really take notice of it earlier that day. Shockingly enough, he concludes that what makes the night so nice is the stars. There’s no clouds to cover them so they shine at their fullest, he even thinks he sees a few more than normal. He’s never considered them pretty before in his life, and yet, he has no other words for them now.
He watches a specific one, it’s rather close to the neighboring moon and seems to be the brightest in the sky. There’s a content feeling in his chest that lingers until there’s movement next to it. Subtle, barely noticeable movement but he’s confident in what he’s seen. At first he thinks it must be a bird or a bug that flew into his vision, but he quickly realizes that’s not it when whatever it is comes into focus. A small dot situated between the stars, easily confused for one if you’re just glancing at it but Din is paying close attention. His eyes widen when he realizes not only is the dot moving, it’s getting bigger, coming straight towards the forest.
His heart slams against his ribs, almost like it’s going to burst through at any second. It doesn’t take longer than a few minutes for Din to recognize what he’s looking at.
The X-Wing gracefully flies towards and over the school, heading towards the clearing where it always lands. With only a moment of hesitation, Din launches out of bed and charges out the door, almost forgetting his helmet in his haze. He trips and stumbles down the hall, careless to any noise he makes but, thankfully, nobody is alerted to it. Clearing the common room and taking huge strides out the door, he finds himself back outside and staring straight into Luke’s eyes.
They stare at each other for a moment, both breathing heavily and practically vibrating with energy. Din takes in his appearance that is definitely different than when they had last seen each other. Luke’s usually neat hair is messy, some of that thanks to the helmet he wore on his ship but also like he had some close encounters with rather precise weapons. His clothes are the same old robes but torn up in crazed, jagged ways that tell their own story, even his glove is ripped. Then his face, oh his beautiful face, a new, smaller scar is fresh on his cheek, still tender and healing. He looks like he’s been through a lot, an adventure Din will most likely hear about very soon, but he can’t think about that now. All he can possibly think about is Luke, Luke, Luke-
And just like that, the Jedi practically jumps at him, crashing into his arms with none of the grace he usually has, just pure exhaustion. Din feels like he can’t wrap his arms around the man fast enough, immediately pulling him into an almost-crushing hold that still doesn’t feel like enough. Luke rests his cheek on Din’s shoulder and buries his nose in his neck, making a lump grow in the Mandalorian’s throat. They rock back and forth slowly, still shaking but with quiet cries this time, Luke’s tears start to soak Din’s thin shirt but he can’t bring himself to care. All he cares about is the man in his arms and how alive he is.
“Din,” Luke whispers, voice shaken and worn out like he had been yelling a lot. “Din, I’m sorry-“
“Don’t,” Din gently whispers, “I understand, don’t apologize.”
Too tired to argue or ask what changed, Luke just nods his head and lets himself be held. They stand like that for a few minutes, neither daring to break the almost holy silence that surrounds them, like this will be ripped away at any moment with the slightest disturbance. Of course, it doesn’t, not when they sway together or when Din whispers, “let’s go to bed. We can talk in the morning.”
It stays the same when they quietly pad through the temple, mindful of the sleeping students that have yet to find out their master has returned. It stays the same when they enter the room, taking a moment to stare at each other in the strong moonlight. It stays the same when Luke changes his clothes and puts the blindfold back on, slipping into his side of the bed and curls up to Din who joins him a moment later. It stays the same when they hold each other and eventually fall into a dreamless sleep.
It takes a moment for Din to recall what had happened the night before, but the familiar arms around his waist and head resting on his back catches him up to speed pretty quickly. His heart leaps into his throat when Luke starts to shift, knowing well enough that the man is about to wake up. It fills him with more nerves than he felt the previous night, they were so emotionally driven then and now that they’re rested and back in the right mindset, they’ll have to talk it out. Not that he doesn’t want to talk, there’s actually a lot he wants to say, things he feels he has to apologize about and sentiments he wants to share just because it feels right. The reason talking makes him feel nervous is because it will all be so real then. He’s been imagining this morning ever since Luke flew off but had to accept that those were fantasies, mere day dreams he could only long for. But, now he’s here, and when they meet face to face again, it’ll be all so real.
“Din…?” Luke’s sleep ridden voice suddenly calls out, startling Din enough to gasp, but the Jedi doesn’t seem to notice.
He slowly turns to the side and meets his lover’s blindfolded face. Any prepared speech he had is quickly forgotten, the air is knocked out of his lungs and all he can think about is how painfully alive his lover is. He can’t stop himself when a loving “ cyar'ika ” escapes his lips.
Luke takes a moment to process his words but when he does, a huge, relieved smile finds itself on his gorgeous face. He huffs a little, like this wasn’t the reaction he expected but exactly the one he hoped for. Din’s heart clenches at the thought of Luke being afraid of his anger or wrath, something he would never inflict upon him.
They sit in a pregnant silence for a few more seconds before Luke breaks the silence. “Din, I’m so sorry… I shouldn’t have left that way and-and I should’ve given you a way to contact me or I should’ve explained better I-“ he pauses, taking a frustrated breath in and out, “I shouldn’t have done that to you.”
Din says nothing, taking a moment to mull his response over in his head. “I was scared you would die,” he slowly admits, knowing there’s a point to his words but he’s also not phrasing it the best way. “I worried about you every single day, we all did-“
Luke groans, “oh my god the students- “
“ But ,” Din cuts him off, “you had a job to do. A responsibility that I didn’t understand before- I still don’t, not entirely at least. We were scared and hoped you’d return every day, but in the end we trusted you to. I… I wasn’t the best at it but I do now. I trusted you’d return to us.” The return to me goes unspoken.
Luke gapes for a moment, trying to find the words but seemingly can’t convey what he wants to say into words. Eventually he sighs and settles on, “thank you. You don’t know how much that means to me.” He pulls his head up, looking in approximately Din’s direction. “I can’t pretend I’m not to blame, though. I did dump sixteen kids on you and run off… pretty messed up of me.”
Din shrugs best he can laying on his side. “I’d do it again if I had to.”
Luke smiles again, this time leaning in for a surprisingly well placed kiss given the fact that he can’t see. Din, of course, eagerly reciprocates, relishing in the first kiss he’s shared with his lover in weeks. It’s far from a dirty kiss, easily the most lovable one they’ve shared thus far. Everything that had gone unsaid finds itself in their kiss, things they could never put into words and even things that don’t need to be words.
“I love you,” Luke says against his lips, not ready to separate just yet.
“I love you too, Luke.” And for the first time in three weeks, Din feels like he’s truly healing.
An excited squeak coming from the crib breaks them both out of the moment. Din looks over and sees Grogu, now wide awake and eagerly escaping his crib to meet his master again. Luke, though he can’t see, lets out a giggle of pure joy, probably missing his students almost as much as he missed Din.
When Grogu finds himself at the side of their bed, Din scoops him up and places him on Luke’s lap. He makes quick work of putting his helmet on and telling Luke as much so he can remove the blindfold and greet his student.
“Hi, little one,” Luke warmly greets when they make eye contact, “I missed you very much.” Grogu lets out an excited yelp and buries his face in Luke’s chest, the closest thing to a hug he knows how to give.
“You should see the other students,” Din comments, watching the scene before him with an overwhelming amount of love. “They miss you.”
Luke nods his head but doesn’t look away from Grogu. “Of course, I miss them too.” He pauses, thinking something over before letting out a bit of a groan, “picking up their training will be very difficult…”
Din can’t stop himself from feeling a bit smug, “they haven’t stopped training. I took over a few days after you left.”
Luke turns to look at him with wide, almost unbelieving eyes, “you did?”
“The only thing they’re not caught up on is whatever force training they do. We’ve been going out for lessons every day, we’re supposed to meet for a hike this morning.”
Overcome with emotion, Luke wraps his arms around Din’s neck, pulling him into half a hug and pressing real kisses against the cool beskar. “Thank you,” he whispers, putting his forehead against Din’s.
“Always, cyar'ika .”
The students, as anyone could have predicted, were ecstatic at seeing Luke again- coming out of his bedroom no less, very surprising. Some cried in relief, others laughed until their cheeks hurt and they all begged for hugs, Luke was more than happy to comply. As they reunite, Din decides to stand back near the wall, letting them have their moment and content knowing they should have many more just like this in the future.
The only other person standing to the side is Sella, who is watching the scene with the same delighted expression but not tripping over herself to get Luke’s attention. Din turns to her with a curious expression, not that she could see it but his body language says it all. He doesn’t say anything to her but she seems to know that he has some questions on his mind.
“He’s alive,” she says in a joking tone, recalling all the mornings she had to announce it, “but you can tell now.”
Din nods, half smiling at her joke. “You don’t seem surprised,” he comments.
She shakes her head, “no, I knew he was here the moment he entered the atmosphere.” Her expression grows a little sheepish, “I… I’ve been trying to sense him for weeks.”
The armored man cocks his head to the side, “why didn’t you come greet him?”
She gives him a look and Din suddenly feels a little embarrassed. They don’t say anything else, Din nods his head and turns back to watching Luke answer a million questions a minute.
This goes on for about an hour until everything that can be asked has been asked, not to say Luke had all the answers but he tried his best. Once they’ve settled down, Nej looks to Din and asks him, “are we still going out for that hike?”
He goes to answer yes, of course they are, but stops, a new realization dawning on him. Now that Luke is back, he’s no longer their teacher, what authority could he have now that their master is back? So, instead he answers, “only if it’s okay with Luke.”
Luke gives him a confused yet fond look, like what Din had just said is a little dumb or he can’t figure out why it was said at all. “We’ll follow your lead,” he says, “I don’t see why it has to change now.”
Din hesitantly nods his head, not exactly sure what to say. All he knows is that it’ll be another conversation for another time. “Then yes, we’re still going. You guys should go get ready.”
The kids are immediately on their feet and hurrying down the hall, leaving Din and Luke alone once again. Luke crosses the room to be beside him, leaning his head on his armored shoulder but showing no signs of discomfort. “You did a great job with them,” Luke says in a warm voice, “I can’t thank you enough.”
“There’s no need,” he says assuringly. He turns his head to look at him best he can and holds his gloved hand out, “let’s go wait outside.”
Without a moment to think about it, Luke takes it and nods, “yes, lets.”
Their hike, though not unlike the many others they have taken, is definitely the best one yet. He tries not to feel too prideful but the way the children show off their newfound observations skills and keep impressing Luke but, well, Din can’t help it. Luke even comments on how Sella, Nej and La’vena have naturally taken to their roles as his helpers, still acting as such even though Luke has returned.
“Mando!” Myn calls out, pointing to a bush on the side of the trail. “There’s something in here!”
Din separates from his position next to Luke and takes long strides to the youngling, kneeling down at their level. “How big do you think it is?” He questions, remembering this same scenario a few weeks ago.
His tongue pokes out the side of his mouth as he thinks, eyebrows pulled together like he’s using his full concentration. “Not big,” he decides, “probably a-“
A frog hops out from the bushes, effectively cutting the poor child off and immediately catching his attention as well. Myn watches it with a giddy expression, probably more excited at seeing an animal than the fact that he predicted its size correctly. He doesn’t notice the way Din is watching the amphibian intently, unable to look away from it, because it’s the same frog from before.
“Good job, Myn,” Luke compliments, coming up from behind the two. “Very impressive!”
Myn’s eyes light up at the praise coming from his master, “thank you, Master Skywalker!” Then he’s bounding away, back to the group of children walking ahead of him.
Luke smiles, watching the child go and coming up to Din’s side. There’s a beat of silence (or, the closest you can get to silence in a forest) where neither of them say anything, Din continues to observe the frog before him and Luke curiously watches Din. “Still like frogs, huh?” He asks, causing Din to flinch a little.
The frog, who had been staring Din straight in the eyes, as if his helmet wasn’t there, turns to Luke. Funny enough, it seems to look him up and down, like they were in awe of who stood before them. Their gaze flickers back to Din, who hasn’t looked away still, and gives them what seems to be a nod of approval before hopping off into the bushes again.
“Something like that,” Din mumbles, trying to process what just happened. Giving his head a little shake, he reaches for Luke’s hand and starts walking back towards the group, “let’s catch up.”
Luke nods and follows wordlessly, seemingly confused by the encounter himself. It doesn’t take long for them to find the kids, their loud chatter was easy to follow so thank goodness for hyper children. As they start to round the corner, Din takes notice of how their surroundings are starting to change. Behind them, the trees had brilliant green leaves that hung high in the air. Before him now are yellow leaves, low ones that make Din duck to avoid getting hit. The further they walk, the more obvious these changes become until they finally make it into a clearing where the children have gathered. Now Din realizes what’s going on.
Autumn. The forest is covered head to toe in stunning reds, oranges and yellows that take everyone’s breath away. The floor is littered with discarded, dying leaves that somehow still match the beauty of everything around them. Even the ponds surrounding the area are reflecting the magnificence of the season.
“Didn’t I tell you it’d be beautiful?” Luke asks, unable to take his eyes off the scene before them.
“Yes,” Din freely admits. And I’m here to see it with you, just as I promised , he thinks, feeling quite pleased that he got to keep his word. He shifts his eyes to Luke, intending to ask if they should keep going or turn back, but the air is knocked from his lungs from the sight he’s greeted with. Somehow the array of warm colors make Luke appear ethereal, even more beautiful than before if that’s at all possible. The blonde keeps admiring the seasons change, completely oblivious to the way his lover is having a bit of a crisis.
In that moment, Din decides there’s something he needs to do. He feels a bit dizzy and scared thinking about it but, in that moment, he knows Luke is worth overcoming those anxieties.
The next time they get a moment to themselves, it’s long since the sun has gone down. It was almost impossible to pull the younglings away from Luke, and neither men could blame them really, it had been three weeks. But now the children are tucked away in bed, even Grogu is snoring away in his crib, dead to the world for at least another eight hours.
Luke is in the corner of the room starting to get dressed for bed, putting on an extra layer in preparation for the cold night ahead. Din is sitting on the bed, mind threatening to spiral with rather egregious hypotheticals, making him vibrate with nerves but his stubborn determination refuses to let him back out. While he battles his own thoughts, Luke has picked up on his lover’s tense demeanor, becoming more concerned the longer it goes on for.
“Din? Are you okay?”
Din jolts, turning to meet Luke’s gaze and suddenly feeling stupid. How could he forget Luke’s ability to sense his emotions? He must be like an ocean’s storm from the Jedi’s perspective… well, he feels like that even from his own.
“Yes, I just-“ He pauses, knowing he can’t just brush this under the rug. His heart threatens to beat straight out of his chest, the hyper thump of it so loud he’s afraid he might wake the entire temple up. It’s now or never, he nervously thinks, and decides to take a leap of faith. “Will you come with me outside?”
Not surprisingly, Luke immediately nods. He trusts Din with his life, asking to take a walk of sorts is hardly a dangerous activity. Din stands up and stretches his hand out, Luke takes it appreciatively and they set out down the hallway. The temple feels a thousand times hotter than it normally is, Din breaks out into a sweat with just a few steps but he can’t blame that on any exercise he’s done. He doesn’t miss the way Luke throws a few concerned glances his way, probably deciding to stay quiet and wait for the armored man to open up on his own. Though this is his plan, Din is afraid he might not make it through to the end, the weight of the situation almost causing him to back out multiple times the whole day, but once again, he’s stubborn.
They don’t talk, not until they come out into the clearing. It’s another beautiful night, the stars just as bright as the one before it, almost as if they’re joyous, if stars could ever be so. The moonlight is strong on the forest floor, almost as if begging two lovers to stand beneath it and whisper sweet nothings. Din would love to do that now, having almost unending praise for the man he’s grown to love over time, but that’s not why he’s here. He’s here to ask if he can keep praising him for the rest of his life.
“You know,” Din starts, forcing his voice steady, “I’ve grown to like the stars now.”
“Oh?” Luke looks at him with a curious but satisfied smirk, like he predicted this. “What changed your mind?”
Din lets out a huff of a laugh, “you did.”
Taking a deep breath, Din turns to face Luke with his whole body and takes both the Jedi’s hands into his own. Luke’s face gives away his surprise but he doesn’t say anything, only watching his lover and waiting for him to continue.
“Luke, I… I was terrified when you left. You mean more to me than I could ever say and I wanted nothing more than to be by your side. I know I can’t always do that… at least not physically.”
“Luke, will you marry me?”
The silence that follows is deafening. Luke stares at him with wide, unreadable eyes and Din feels like his heart might just jump out of his throat.
“I know it’s soon and you just got back but there’s not another moment I want to spend without being your husband-“
Now it’s Din’s turn to be shocked, “you will?”
A huge, elated smile breaks out across the Jedi’s face followed by thick tears rolling down his cheeks. “Din, of course I’ll marry you- there’s nothing I want more than that!”
They meet in a crushing hug, one that almost knocks each other over. Hot tears roll down Din’s own face but for once he can’t be bothered to hate it, this time he lets them flow. Luke’s arms wrap around his neck, pulling him down as far as he’ll go to meet their foreheads in a kiss. Din’s own hands rest on his hips, pulling him as close to his body as he’ll go.
After a few moments of this, no words exchanged but their body saying it all, Luke breaks the silence. “How do we do it?”
“Get married, is there a specific way you do it?”
Din pauses, knowing the answer but shocked that Luke is asking. “You want to get married like Mandalorians?”
Luke nods, “I don’t really have a strong background, but I know you do. I want to follow your lead.”
The armored man once again finds himself speechless, in awe of his lover just as he always is. “Okay… Marriage isn’t- it’s not a big ceremony like some cultures have. We exchange vows in Mando’a, those will bound us and you’ll join my clan.”
The Jedi doesn’t respond for a few moments, processing the information but his eyes light up when the realization dawns on him. “We can get married now? Right here?”
Din nods, “if that’s what you want.”
“Of course it is.”
Swallowing down the lump in his throat, Din proceeds to change his life forever. “Then repeat after me- it doesn’t have to be perfect.” No matter what you say, it’ll be perfect to me , he thinks. “ Mhi solus tome, mhi solus dar’tome, mhi me’dinui an, mhi ba’juri verde. ”
Luke takes a shuddering breath in, “ Mhi solus tome, mhi solus dar’tome, mhi me’dinui an, mhi ba’juri verde. ” His pronunciation is horrible, what some might consider to be downright butchering the language but for Din, it’s music to his ears. He looks at him now, bathed in the moonlight that’s only gotten brighter in the last few moments, and admires his husband .
“That’s it?” Luke whispers, looking terribly eager.
“That’s it,” Din confirms, “we’re… we’re a clan of three now.”
Luke gives him a watery smile, threatening to burst into tears at any moment. He moves his hand to the nape of his neck, fingers tickling the fine hairs there, and goes to pull him down but Din doesn’t follow like he usually does. Ignoring the confused look Luke gives him, he removes his gloved hands from the Jedi’s hips and brings them up to his own face. In a painfully slow manner, he hooks his thumbs under the rim of his helmet and raises it off his head, exposing himself before Luke entirely.
Luke gasps when he realizes what’s going on, as if he wasn’t expecting this at all. It won’t be the first time he sees Din’s face, maybe that’s what gives Din the confidence to do this without hesitation, but it doesn’t stop either of them from feeling almost lightheaded with nerves. Finally, the metal is lifted above his eyes and practically thrown off his head, he gets to look upon his husband with his own eyes.
Luke, always one for wearing his heart on his sleeve, looks at him with such love and admiration like Din has never seen before. “You’re so gorgeous,” the Jedi whispers, slowly bringing his flesh hand up to cup the Mandalorian’s cheek. Din leans into it, shocked by how intimate it feels, more than ready to begin getting used to that feeling. His robotic hand runs through Din’s matted hair, fluffing it up like Din never takes the time to do. Luke never closes his eyes, choosing to keep them open and soak in the moment as much as he can. “I love you, Din Djarin.”
Din sighs contently, “I love you too, Luke Skywalker.”
The Jedi scoffs, “I’ll be damned if I don’t take your last name… At least hyphenate it!”
He breathlessly laughs, “Luke Skywalker-Djarin?”
They giggle and meet in a kiss- a real kiss this time, no helmet or blindfold acting as a barrier between them. Both Luke’s hands find themselves on Din’s face now, they hold him in a desperate grip, much like Din’s own hands back on the Jedi’s hips. Only the stars know how much time passes before they separate and go back inside, but they can’t bring themselves to care.
Finally, Din feels whole again.